It was a quiet morning of the 3rd July 2007 when I suddenly heard the soft cries of a fledgling begging for food: ‘kwok-kwok-kwok’. The cries did not sound familiar so I went outside to have a look. Sure enough, there perching in the umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) was an adult Banded Woodpecker (Picus miniaceus), also known as Banded Yellownape (above left). It was flying from one point of the tree to another, actively gleaning ants from among the apical portion of branches and bases of the leave stalks (above right).
Then I spotted the fledgling (left). It was perched on the branch of a nearby terap tree (Artocarpus odoratissimus), calling on and off. Whenever the adult had harvested enough ants, it went to the fledgling and fed it.
They were around for about ten minutes before the adult flew off followed by the fledgling.
Now, the umbrella tree is native to New Guinea and Northern Australia. It is commonly grown in the tropics as the flowering branches are rather attractive (below). What is not commonly known is that it is very invasive. Saplings sprout easily, on the ground as well as on the branches of other trees.
Not commonly known is that the plant is an epiphyte, beginning life on the trunk/branches of trees and sending roots round the trunk of the host tree. It behaves like a strangling fig but does not strangle its host. Grown on the ground, its near-superficial roots spread all over, and can cause problems.
The plant attracts butterflies and birds when in flower, and as such it is good to have around. It is best to grow it off the wayside as the wood is brittle and branches or even the main trunks tend to collapse frequently. However, it makes a excellent potted plant that does not need to be repotted for a few years.
This is another example of an exotic plant that does attract wildlife.