The Mimusops elengi tree, locally called the Tanjong Tree, Bunga Tanjung or Spanish Cherry, is a tree I am familiar with (native to Southeast Asia). I did know its name in the past but lost it (old age) until recently when a bird watching colleague mentioned it again. It has small, white, star-shaped flowers ~1cm wide, often in small clusters. The fruit are oval ~2-3cm long and edible. The tree can grow to a height of 10-15 meters and is often found planted by the roadside outside some of the forest reserves in Perak and hence attract forest birds.
Over the years, I have observed a number of bird species visiting this tree, often to look for insect prey. However, I will focus on those that visit the Mimusops elengi tree to feed on the nectar for the flowers.
The nectar is a favourite of a number of sunbirds, especially the Brown-throated Sunbirds.
Bird seen feeding on the nectar of the Mimusops elengi tree:
- Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
- Red-throated Sunbird Anthreptes rhodolaemus
- Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex
- Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis
Attached 2 images showing the Brown-throated Sunbird male and a Plain Sunbird in the process of nectar feeding. The foliage is sufficiently thick so as to make images of the actual feeding difficult to obtain. I have observed the Blue-winged Leafbirds Chloropsis cochinchinensis feeding at the tree but could not see the actual items taken (possibly nectar).
I suspect many more birds feed on the nectar and careful observation will confirm this. I also suspect the edible fruit is taken by some birds. It is a common roadside tree in Singapore and there should be more observations available.
A brief search online showed an image of a juvenile male Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja feeding on the nectar (efloraofindia database; note that it was wrongly labelled as a ‘Scarlet Sunbird’). The same site also comments that “the green fruits are now scarlet red to orangish red and are a great favourite of birds… Its fruits are eaten by many birds ….”.
An Australian Northern Territory native plant site comments that the plant is “bird and butterfly attracting”.
An undergraduate research paper from Terengganu, Malaysia (Sukri et al 2021) on the pollination of the Mimusops elengi observed nectar feeding visits by the Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis.
Hence there are currently 6 documented sunbirds that feed on this plant.
- efloraofindia – Database of Plants of Indian Subcontinent- developed by the members of Efloraofindia Google Group <https://sites.google.com/site/efloraofindia/species/m—z/s/sapotaceae/mimusops/mimusops-elengi>
- Australian Northern Territory Native Plants <https://www.territorynativeplants.com.au/mimusops-elengi-nt-native>
- Haikal Hazmi Sukri, Felicia Syupie Gunong, Nazurah Idin, Nor Zalipah Mohamed (2021). Floral Traits and Pollination of Spanish Cherry (Mimusops elengi Linn.) in Universiti Malaysia Terengganu Campus. Universiti Malaysia Terengganu Journal of Undergraduate Research. Volume 3 Number 3, July 2021: 43-52. <https://umtjur.umt.edu.my/wp-content/uploads/sites/141/2021/07/5-UMT-JUR-Vol.-3-No.-3-July-2021-P.pdf>
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia