Update on Birds Observed Feeding on Poikilospermum suaveolens

on 13th April 2022

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.
  2. Wee YC (2017). Plant-Bird Relationship (Version 3.0). Bird Ecology Study Group.
  3. Long-tailed Sibia feeding on the flowers of Poikilospermum suaveolens for the nectar they contain.
  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.
  6. Macaulay Library and eBird (2022). Bohol Sunbird Aethopyga decorosa.
  7. Online version of The Biodiversity of Singapore (2022).
  8. Amar-Singh HSS (2019). Video of Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplexfeeding on flowers of Poikilospermum suaveolens. YouTube.


Amar-Singh HSS & Lee-Fung Chai

Malaysia, April 2022


If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

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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