Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus percussus ignicapilla) with animal prey

The Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus percussus ignicapilla) is considered an “obligate frugivore” (Wells 2007). Cheke and Mann (2001) describe the diet as fruit and possibly nectar and pollen of mistletoes (Loranthaceae). Food items identified by Wells (2007) includes the fruit of Melastoma malabathricumFicus aurantiacea and Syzygium aqueum (Eugenia aquea). 

On 13th June 2022, at the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, I observed an adult female Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker searching for prey in a tree which had no fruit or flowers (Image 1). I then saw it acquire a caterpillar (Image 2). Once it had caught the caterpillar, the bird flew off immediately without consuming the prey. I assume this was to bring the prey to its juvenile(s); nest and juveniles were not seen. Identity of the flowerpecker can be seen better in the third image, which was taken moments earlier in a brighter location.

Photo 1: An adult female Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker searching for prey in a tree which had no fruit or flowers.
Photo 2: The bird later emerged from the foliage with a caterpillar in its beak.
Photo 3: The bird came into full view and Amar was able to establish its identity.

In the past I have seen it rob spider webs and take spiders; presumably again as food for juveniles. It is possible that many bird species, where adults predominantly feed on fruits or nectar, will feed their juveniles animal prey (insects) as a protein source for early growth and development. 

A Summary of Food Items I have Personally Observed

Piper aduncum (Tree Pepper or Spiked Pepper) – feed on the fruiting stalks

Clidemia hirta (Hairy Clidemia) – feed on fruit; a favourite food

Melastoma malabathricum (Straits Rhododendron) – feed on fruit

Bridelia tomentosa – feed on fruit; fruit is 4.5-6.5mm in diameter

Ficus villosa – feed on fruit

Ficus consociate – feed on fruit 

Ficus benjamina – feed on fruit

Psidium guajava (Guava) – feed on fruit

Syzygium samarangense (Eugenia aquea, Water Jambu) – feed on fruit

Muntingia calabura (Village Cherry) – feed on fruit

Trema tomentosa (Rough Trema) – feed on fruit

Mistletoe species (unknown) – feed on fruit

Also 4 other small jungle berries (one a creeper) of unknown identity. 

An online image search, including the Macaulay Library, shows this species feeding on many types of Ficus fruit, other types of berries, and open ripe Mango and Averrhoa carambola (Star Fruit). 

This species is an occasional participant of lowland mixed foraging parties (bird waves).

 

References:

  1. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 (Passarines). Christopher Helm, London.
  2. Robert A Cheke, Clive F Mann, Richard Allen (2001). Sunbirds: A Guide to the Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers, Spiderhunters and Sugarbirds of the World. Helm Identification Guides.

  

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Read the post https://besgroup.org/2021/10/14/crimson-breasted-flowerpecker-diet/ about Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker foraging behaviour and this post https://besgroup.org/2008/12/19/the-male-crimson-breasted-flowerpecker/ about the difficulty in photographing this species.

 

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