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New Food (Fruit) Items for the Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki

on 20th December 2023

I have been watching a number of migratory and local flycatchers feed on fruit items at a forest site on the outskirts of Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia in November and December 2023. This group includes a possible ‘family unit’ of five Mugimaki Flycatchers Ficedula mugimaki. Fruit feeding by the Mugimaki Flycatcher is a recognised behaviour (Wells 2007).

The favourite of many of these flycatchers is the Trema orientale (also called Trema orientalis). Trema orientale is a fast-growing tree with a heavy branching that can reach 18 m in height. The fruit is small at 4-6 mm and black when ripe. The flycatchers would obtain the fruit by an aerial sally with a ‘snatch-and-grab’ technique. More often they would alight on the tree to harvest the fruit. See Plate 1 of feeding behaviour.

Plate 1: Mugimaki Flycatcher feeding on fruit of Trema orientale (Trema orientalis).

The flycatchers that I have seen feed on Trema orientale (Trema orientalis) fruit this season include:

  1. Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki
  2. Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae
  3. Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia
  4. Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
  5. Blue-and-white or Zappey’s Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana/cumatilis (females cannot be differentiated)
  6. Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus
  7. Indochinese Blue Flycatcher Cyornis sumatrensis
    Many other bird species also feed on this fruit.

On 18th December 2023 I saw another fruit item for the Mugimaki Flycatcher, the Commersonia bartramia (Brown Kurrajong, Scrub Christmas Tree). This small tree, usually 6-15 meters in height, has copious flowers and fruit/seeds. The fruit is a hairy, dark capsule 15–25 mm long and contains yellow or orange seeds (possibly arils) that are 1.5-2 in size. See Plate 2 of feeding behaviour.

Plate 2: Mugimaki Flycatcher feeding on aril of Commersonia bartramia

In the past I have seen the Mugimaki Flycatcher feed on the fruit of the:

  1. Macaranga bancana (Common Mahang)
  2. Macaranga gigantea (Giant Mahang)
  3. Acacia mangium (arils and seeds)

I have also seen them picking items off the bamboo – either the seeds or insects (see reference).

References

  1. Wells, D.R. (2007). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 (Passerines). London: Christopher Helm.
  2. Amar-Singh HSS (2015). Mugimaki Flycatcher – feeding in seeding bamboo. Bird Ecology Study Group. https://besgroup.org/2015/12/02/mugimaki-flycatcher-feeding-in-seeding-bamboo/

Amar
(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.

Amar-Singh HSS

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, Cert Theology (Aust, Hons), MBBS (Mal), MRCP (UK), FRCP (Glasg), MSc Community Paediatrics (Ldn, dist), is a Consultant Paediatrician. He served the Malaysian civil service for more than 35 years, led regional Paediatric and Research departments, is an active child advocate and the recipient of a number of international awards. He has been a bird watcher for around 50 years, published two bird books, has a number of international bird publications, contributed to more than 20 international bird books/guides, and contributes to online bird image and audio databases. He is an active contributor to the Bird Ecology Study Group with a large number of detailed posts and write-ups on bird ecology. He is a life member of the Malaysian Nature Society, a member of the BCC-MNS Records Committee, a member of the Oriental Bird Club and supports eBird. He is interested in spending time getting to know bird behaviour and considers himself a bird-friend. Amar is based at Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.

Other posts by Amar-Singh HSS

2 responses

  1. Interesting observations here Amar. Always thought they were feeding on minute fruit flies not the fruit. Have observed these species feeding as well.
    Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki
    Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae
    Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopy

    Incidentally noticed bulbuls, especially Spectacled being aggressive whilst the flycatchers fed!

    1. Dear Bryon
      Thank you for the kind comment & adding to the observation.
      I have observed many species of local & migratory Flycatchers feeding on fruit.
      The activity is hard to document as they often obtain the fruit by an aerial sally, with a ‘snatch-and-grab’ technique, land at a different perch & consume the small fruit quickly. Hence need a burst of images or a good video to capture the fruit feeding activity. I often take 50-70 images to get one sharp fruit in the mouth image.
      Agree that there is competitive feeding at these trees. I have seen both intraspecific & interspecific competition. And as you have observed, the bigger birds tend to ‘bully’ the smaller flycatchers.
      regards
      Amar

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