Frugivory (fruit feeding) by the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler (Mixornis gularis)

posted in: bird, Feeding | 0

I had previously reported (Amar-Singh HSS 2016) an observation of a Pin-striped Tit-Babbler (Mixornis gularis) feeding on the fruit of the Macaranga heynei (Blue Mahang). At the time I thought it highly unusual with no good reports in the literature to support the behaviour. 

I have since seen this feeding behaviour a number of times.

1.    On 23rd September 2021 I observed a bird taking a small, dark oval fruit (plant species not seen) at the Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak. See image 1.

Image 1: Pin-striped Tit-Babbler taking a small, dark oval fruit at the Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak. 23 September 2021.

2.    On 16th February 2023 I saw a bird feeding on the fruit of the Macaranga heynei (Blue Mahang) at the Ulu Kinta Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak (image quality poor).

3.    On 27th February 2023 I observed a bird feeding on Trema tomentosa fruit at the Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak. The bird was intermittently harassed by a Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus) that tried to chase it away. See Image 2.

Image 2: Pin-striped Tit-Babbler feeding on Trema tomentosa fruit at the Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak. 27 February 2023. 

These observations confirm that fruit forms part of the diet of Pin-striped Tit-Babbler. The type of fruit taken appears to be small, 6mm or less. 

In all my observations I only saw one bird feeding which is unusual for such a sociable species. On the 16th February 2023 observation, I was certain the bird was nesting. I wonder if this behaviour is only seen during the nesting period and the bird is taking a short feeding-break from incubation?

 

In searching more about babblers and frugivory, I came across Corlett’s work.
Richard T. Corlett. (2017). Frugivory and seed dispersal by vertebrates in tropical and subtropical Asia: An update. Global Ecology and Conservation. Volume 11, 2017, Pages 1-22. ISSN 2351-9894.
On babblers he says: “Most (babbler) species are commonly described as insectivores, but every study that has looked at fecal samples or observed understory trees and shrubs has reported consistent levels of frugivory and most species appear to pass seeds intact (Corlett, 1998, Corlett, 2011a). The most frugivorous subfamily appears to be the Leiothrichinae, which includes the genera Alcippe, Garrulax (in its traditional sense), Turdoides, Heterophasia, Leiothrix, Minla, and Actinodura (Leven, 2009). The role of these rather inconspicuous birds in seed dispersal has not been studied, but their diversity and abundance in the north of the region suggest that they are likely to be important there, at least. Turdioides affinis was the most important frugivore in dry evergreen forest in India, consuming 22 fruit species (Anil and Parthasarathy, 2015). In Hong Kong, several babbler species have become established from cage birds released by Buddhists and one of these, the near-native greater necklaced laughingthrush, Garrulax pectoralis, is now the largest-gaped avian frugivore in shrublands (Corlett, 2011a).”

 

 

Reference:

Amar-Singh HSS (2016). Pin-striped Tit-babbler – frugivorous behaviour. Bird Ecology Study Group. https://besgroup.org/2016/03/13/pin-striped-tit-babbler-frugivorous-behaviour/

 

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

 

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