Sterculia colorata (Bonfire Tree) – Nectar Feeders

posted in: birds, Feeding-plants | 0

The Sterculia colorata (Scarlet Sterculia or Bonfire Tree) originates from the forests of the Western Ghats and the Deccan in India. A few trees have been planted in Ipoh in the 1960s. It flowers once a year and sheds all its leaves at the same time. Brilliant orange flowers, hanging downwards, are produced in dense panicles at the ends of branches. I observed a number of birds feeding on the nectar, including:

  1. Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis maculatus)
  2. Brown-throated Sunbirds (Anthreptes malacensis malacensis)
  3. Yellow-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier analis)

As well as the Plantain Squirrels (Callosciurus notatus).

Post 1. Black-naped Oriole.

The flowers are 30 mm long. The Black-naped Orioles (Post 1) and Yellow-vented Bulbuls take nectar the conventional way, through the front. The Brown-throated Sunbirds use both nectar robbing and conventional nectar feeding techniques (Post 2-3).

Post 2. Brown-throated Sunbird.

The Plantain Squirrels eat the flowers to acquire the nectar. I am sure many other bird species visit these flowers. A good article on bird-pollination of this tree is: Solomon Raju, Purnachandra Rao, Ezradanam. Bird-pollination in Sterculia colorata Roxb. (Sterculiaceae), a rare tree species in the Eastern Ghats of Visakhapatnam and East Godavari Districts of Andhra Pradesh. Current Science, Vol. 87, No. 1, 10 July 2004. The authors found that the flowers on average secrete 15 ul of nectar. They record a number of bird species visiting the flowers including: Bulbuls, Tits, Flowerpeckers, Sunbirds, White-eyes and Rosefinch. While the majority come for the nectar, the authors note that Bulbuls and Tits come for the larvae in flowers and buds; and the Rosefinch ate flower buds.

Post 3. Brown-throated Sunbird.

I cannot be sure that same does not apply to the Black-naped Orioles and Yellow-vented Bulbuls I observed, however they appeared to be taking the nectar. The Brown-throated Sunbirds I saw were definitely nectar feeding and some were heavily pollen stained.

Post 4. Plantain Squirrel.

Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr) – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Urban environment

Date: 12th April 2019

Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone


Follow YC Wee:

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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