Sunbirds have been building their nests on my bedroom balcony ceiling for 12 years . I think it’s because we have ginger flowers in the planter around the balcony. The first nest appeared soon after we planted the ginger flowers ( Heliconia sp.) .
We realized they build their nests from hanging plants and there is a corner of the balcony they favor so we put a money plant (Epipremnum sp.)there to entice them.
On 10 April 2022, the female started her building and the nest was completed around 20 April when I spotted her sitting inside the nest.
Not sure when the egg/s hatched as I can’t see inside the nest and don’t want to cause any disturbance. All the photographs and videos were taken behind glass with an iphone in Tanglin.
Olive-backed sunbirds are known to complete the nest building one week before they lay their eggs. The 2 week incubation period is followed by nestling care for 2-3 weeks before they fledge. Egg incubation in this bird couple could have begun on 28 April 2022.
Video 1 showing female parent bird removing faecal sac from a nestling. 19 May 2022.
Video 2 shows the female parent coaxing the hidden nestling to extrude a faecal sac and then flying off with it. 19 May 2022.
19 May 2022.
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A few of us observed a pair of Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex nesting today (19th May 2022) at the fringe of a forest reserve in Ipoh, Perak. There are limited reports of nesting of this species and this is a preliminary report on this nesting episode.
The nest was located approximately 11-12 meters, high up in a tree (species unknown, although the leaves did look like that of the Durio species). A prior nesting report (Wells 2007) described a nest suspended 3.5 meters up an Acacia mangium tree. This nest was hidden under a thin branch, sheltered by the leaves, on the outer part of the foliage.
The nest is globular and appeared to be made of grass and fibre; it was still green. It is possible that some moss is used. The nest has been described in the past (Cheke & Mann 2001) as untidy, with material sticking out in all directions. But this nest appears quite neat. As previously noted, there is no eave or ‘porch’.
The height made observations difficult. I used my Nikon P900 to get closer videos and longer observations. I have edited a lot of footage to give a few nest visits, so as to provide an idea of the behaviour of the birds. Note that the video shown here is at normal speed.
Both the adult male and female visited the nest.
No nesting material was brought by either partner, suggesting that nest building is completed.
As the nest opening is on the side and not in view, we were not able to determine if there were any chicks.
However we are not able to understand the behaviour of the birds. Most of the visits are extremely brief. Many were fluttering episodes that did not reach the nest (only a tiny fraction of these are shown on this video). Some appeared to be nest ‘observations’, where the bird looks at the nest. Some nest visits may have been feeding episodes but none of us saw any food in the beaks.
This behaviour was occurring even at the start of our observation and the birds were not disturbed by observers (we were situated too far below). The behaviour went on intermittently for 2 hours of our observation.
If you look at the video, at the end, I have included a segment to show that there are Oecophylla smaragdinaants (Weaver Ant, Tailor Ant, Kerengga) at the nest. I do not think this is a problem as I have observed Brown-throated Sunbirds Anthreptes malacensispreferentially nesting in trees with these ants (Amar 2016).
Could the birds have been feeding nectar that we could not see?
Perhaps Plain Sunbirds do not nest near Kerengga ants and the parents were showing distress behaviour due to the ants’ presence (? attacking juveniles).
We hope further observation will make this unusual behaviour clearer.
Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 (Passarines). Christopher Helm, London.
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.
Straw-headed bulbuls, Pycnonotus zeylanicus, are vulnerable passerines of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore, Sumatra and Borneo. Measuring 28 – 29 cm, they are rather large birds and their unique feather patterns make them stand out. Their melodious water gurgling songs attract trappers who sell them as cage-birds. Their populations are dwindling and concerted conservation efforts are required to prevent the extinction of this attractive song bird.
Sexes are similar although females may be slightly smaller. Primarily frugivorous taking figs, mistletoe fruits, wild ‘cherries’ also known as ‘buah cherry’ in Malaysia and Singapore (Muntingiacalabara),fruits of the Ptychosperma macarthurii palm; nectar and flower buds. They are known to take spiders, beetles, bees, caterpillars, stick-insects, snails and small vertebrates like lizards. Young nestlings are fed quite exclusively a diet of protein-rich soft-bodied insects and fruits added to the diet gradually as the little birds get ready to fledge. The fledglings are fed by their parents for up to a month.
Video by Dr. Leslie Kuek, taken on 16-5-2022, along Rifle Range Road. A pair of straw-headed bulbuls foraging on a Madagascar almond tree (Terminalia mantaly ‘Tricolor’).
Bee Choo Strange shared a video of this Dusky Langur (Trachypithecus obscurus) eating leaves, taken in February 2020 at Bukit Tinggi in Peninsular Malaysia. She finds the way it eats the leaves rather interesting.
The Dusky Langur is considered threatened due to destruction of its habitat and poaching. This langur is also known as dusky leaf monkey, spectacled langur or spectacled leaf monkey. It feeds on leaves and fruits. Inhabitant of Myanmar, Southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and seen occasionally in Singapore.
Can anyone identify the plant this langur is feeding on?
This is an older call recording of a social group of Silver-eared Mesias (Leiothrix argentauris tahanensis), sitting in a ‘thicket’ and chattering away. The chattering calls were done simultaneously by a few birds (2-3) at the same time. They were fast calls and occurred at 15-20 notes per second and of varying intensity. They sounded like distress calls but I could not appreciate any threat.
No visit to the Cameron Highlands is complete without watching the Silver-eared Mesia (Leiothrix argentauris tahanensis). Food for such a common bird is not well documented. Wells 2007 says “no animal prey as yet identified” for this species locally. They are a common participant of mixed foraging party (bird wave) and often call out while in a mixed group. Much of the foraging I have seen them do is scrambling about in the undergrowth, searching the vegetation. Hence I suspect prey that is taken is not easily seen. I have observed more episodes of fruit feeding than animal prey. The above image shows a female feeding on pink-white fruit on a large tree (unidentified plant).
Previous food sources I have observed include:
Taking orange-red berries off a bush (unidentified plant).
Fledged juveniles was fed purple berries (unidentified plant); did not seen any animal prey fed to young.
Unidentified orange berries (a favourite of many species, not a ficus)
Feeding on a large green caterpillar.
Feeding on worm/larvae.
Insect prey, possibly a spider.
Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr) – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Location: 1,700m ASL, Cameron Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia
Habitat: Primary montane forest
Date: 12th November 2019
Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone
I had an opportunity to observe part of the courtship ritual of Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) today. In 2012 I had posted an observation about one type of courtship behaviour (Display Type I, Lansdown & Rajanathan 1993); repeated crest-raising displays with neck/throat puffed out. This occurred to one-to-one, i.e. one male to one female. I suspect this ‘Display Type I’ is the late stage of the courtship when a mate has been chosen.
Three birds in the circular flight chase.
Today I observed a number of Yellow Bitterns chasing each other or ‘Circular Flight’ (Display Type II, Lansdown & Rajanathan 1993). On one occurrence there were 5; but for all the other times only 3 or 4 were involved. One bird would launch out from its perch in the tall reeds and fly over the large ex-mining pool. A second, third and fourth bird would follow. They would fly in a large circle, following each other, and return to the reeds (not the same exact site). There were occasions where a single bird would come out to do this circle flight. No calls or altercations were observed during this behaviour. At the reed resting site I did see one bird approach another but it was rebuffed. I watched this happen 6 times over 20 minutes before I moved on (they were still at it). From the distance I located, I could not be sure if it was males chasing females (as mentioned by Lansdown & Rajanathan 1993), or the ratio of males to females. I saw no ‘song-post’ described by these two observers.
Wells, D.R. (1999) The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passerines). Christopher Helm, London
Lansdown, R.V. and Rajanathan R. (1993) Some Aspects of the Ecology of Ixobrychus Bitterns Nesting in Malaysia Ricefields. Colonial Waterbirds. Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 98-101. Published by Waterbird Society.
The Etlingera elatior, commonly known as the Torch Ginger or Bunga Kantan, is an important plant in Southeast Asia and has spectacular flowers. The plant is cultivated for the flowers to be used as herbs, spices in dishes (rojak, laksa, kerabu) and as decorative cut-flowers. It is now widely grown in many countries.
The nectar requires a long-billed bird species and, as such, it suits Spiderhunters and Sunbirds. There is a lovely early discussion on this by Classen (1987) which describes the flower structure and bird bill/tongue required to reach the deep placed nectar.
Over time I have seen a number of birds that feed on the nectar of these flowers; as I am sure many other bird watchers would have observed as well. It is a favourite of Spiderhunters and Sunbirds and I have often observed competitive feeding at flowering sites of the Etlingera elatior. Yesterday (9th May 2022) I had an opportunity to observe 7-10 spiderhunters feeding on this plant at a location where it was flowering extensively, at the fringe of a forest reserve. Images show the Spectacled Spiderhunter and an immature Grey-breasted Spiderhunter.
Bird seen personally feeding on the nectar of the Etlingera elatior:
Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra
Spectacled Spiderhunter Arachnothera flavigaster
Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera modesta
Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
A limited online image and word search showed some other birds feeding on this flower (I have ignored here birds seen on the white variety of this flower).
Birds observed by other individuals feeding on the nectar of the Etlingera elatior:
Streaked Spiderhunter Arachnothera magna (see references in Amar-Singh HSS 2020)
Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja (Wee 2009)
Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus (Aswani et al 2013)
Purple-rumped Sunbird Leptocoma zeylonica (Aswani et al 2013)
Cameroon Sunbird Cyanomitra oritis (Janeček et al 2020)
There are a number of images online showing different Hummingbird species feeding on this flower. Aswani et al. (2013) also mention the Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis as a nectar feeder on this plant but I would like more data on this.
I would not be surprised if many more Spiderhunter and Sunbird species feed on his plant, and further observation and reports are required.
Observed a female Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis malacensis) feeding on the nectar of the Cocos nucifera (Coconut) – one of the many food (nectar) sources these birds have. The bird made a number of calls while feeding.
Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr) – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Fruit farming and secondary growth at city fringe
Date: 24th December 2020
Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone
The following images of the Mountain Tailorbird (Orthotomus cucullatus malayanus) were captured by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, an avid birdwatcher based in Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. On 12th November 2019, Amar travelled about 90 km to the state of Pahang to visit Cameron Highlands, a highland resort 1,700m above sea level. There, he took a long walk along the trail running through the primary jungle. As always, he had his equipment consisting of a Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, accompanied by a handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone to record bird calls.
The following 2 images are from his earlier visit.