Update on Birds Observed Feeding on Poikilospermum suaveolens

posted in: birds, Feeding-plants | 0

Poikilospermum suaveolens is a woody hemi-epiphytic liana (woody vine or climber) found in the rainforest of India, southeast China, most of South-East Asia including Malaysia and Singapore. The tiny pink flowers (male 1.5-2 mm long; female 3-7 mm) are presented in globular inflorescences or ‘branched head-like clusters’. The flowers are a favourite source of nectar for many birds, and due to their small size, are usually eaten by birds to get at the nectar they contain (Reference #1).

Chestnut-crested Yuhina

Prior observations have shown the following bird species that feed on the Poikilospermum suaveolens (Reference #2):

  1. Sooty Barbet Caloramphus hayii
  2. Cream-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus simplex
  3. Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot Loriculus galgulus
  4. Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush Pterorhinus mitratus
  5. Long-tailed Sibia Heterophasia picaoides wrayi (Reference #3)
  6. Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis
  7. Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati
  8. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma
  9. Streaked Spiderhunter Arachnothera magna (Reference #4)
  10. Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
  11. Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja
  12. Van Hasselt’s Sunbird Leptocoma brasiliana
  13. Hume’s White-eye Zosterops auriventer tahanensis

Male Lesser Green Leafbird

One report from the Ulu Ulu Resort, Temburong, Brunei, Borneo (Reference #5) offers photographic evidence of a number of Flowerpeckers feeding on Poikilospermum suaveolens including:

  1. Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker Prionochilus xanthopygius
  2. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma
  3. Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum
  4. Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus maculatus
  5. Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis

This report adds another 3 species of birds to the list.

Purple-naped Sunbird

An image search identified the Bohol Sunbird Aethopyga decorosa as another species that uses this nectar source (Reference #6):

The online version of the ‘Biodiversity of Singapore’ (Reference #7) lists the Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis as a species that feeds on Poikilospermum suaveolens, in addition to some birds already mentioned above.

Black-throated Sunbird

Our recent observations (see images) identify the following additional five species as feeding on the flowers to gain access to the nectar:

  1. Black-throated Sunbird Aethopyga saturate waryi– female seen eating flowers at 1,600m ASL, Cameron Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia, 11th April 2015. Amar-Singh HSS.
  2. Purple-naped Spiderhunter Kurochkinegramma hypogrammicum– adults seen eating flowers at Kledang-Saiong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, 8 and 9th August 2019. Amar-Singh HSS.
  3. Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex – adults seen eating flowers at Kledang-Saiong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, 8 and 9th August 2019. Amar-Singh HSS. (8)
  4. Chestnut-crested Yuhina Staphida everetti– an adult seen eating flowers at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia, 3rd March 2022. Lee-Fung Chai.
  5. Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon. – an adult male and female seen eating flowers at Ampang, Selangor, Malaysia, 7th and 11th April 2022 (respectively). Lee-Fung Chai.

In summary 22 species of birds have observed feeding on Poikilospermum suaveolens as a nectar source. There is every reason to believe that, with time, more birds will be added to this list.

Plain Sunbird


  1. Amar-Singh HSS (2018). Why do Birds Eat Flowers? Lineated Barbet – new food source. Bird Ecology Study Group. https://besgroup.org/2019/02/18/why-do-birds-eat-flowers-lineated-barbet-new-food-source/
  2. Wee YC (2017). Plant-Bird Relationship (Version 3.0). Bird Ecology Study Group. https://besgroup.org/2017/10/01/plant-bird-relationship-version-3-0-2/
  3. Long-tailed Sibia feeding on the flowers of Poikilospermum suaveolens for the nectar they contain. http://www.123rf.com/photo_12455277_long-tailed-sibia-on-round-flower.html
  4. Amar-Singh HSS (2020). Diet and Foraging Behaviour of the Streaked Spiderhunter (Arachnothera magna). BirdingASIA 34: 114–120.
  5. Uluulublog (2017). Flowerpeckers & purple pom pom fruit. Ulu Ulu Resort, Temburong, Brunei, Borneo. https://uluulublog.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/purple-pom-poms-flowerpeckers-butterflies/
  6. Macaulay Library and eBird (2022). Bohol Sunbird Aethopyga decorosa. https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/species/bohsun1/cur/multimedia?media=photos
  7. Online version of The Biodiversity of Singapore (2022). https://singapore.biodiversity.online/species/P-Angi-003736
  8. Amar-Singh HSS (2019). Video of Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplexfeeding on flowers of Poikilospermum suaveolens. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cI7y9yUX8M&t=2s


Amar-Singh HSS & Lee-Fung Chai

Malaysia, April 2022


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