Birds feeding on Mimusops elengi (Tanjong Tree, Bunga Tanjung or Spanish Cherry)

on 9th May 2022

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:

  1. Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
  2. Red-throated Sunbird Anthreptes rhodolaemus
  3. Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex
  4. 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.


  1. efloraofindia – Database of Plants of Indian Subcontinent- developed by the members of Efloraofindia Google Group <—z/s/sapotaceae/mimusops/mimusops-elengi>
  2. Australian Northern Territory Native Plants <>
  3. 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. <>


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


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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