Words and images by Dr. Amar-Singh HSS
Took a break from work and as the there was wet front (from the
south-west) in the city I decided to head north. Went past Chemor and stopped south of Sg Siput (Perak, Malaysia). Took a side road into some oil plam estate on one side and secondary jungle on the other. By God’s grace, was the right place to be for the wet morning.
Despite the poor lighting and impending rain, making images limited,
I would like to share an interesting observation that I have only seen
once before and did not appreciate at the time.
The African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata) has been planted in Malaysia for many years and I have been familiar with it since my childhood. I only once before seen a Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis malacensis) feeding on the “flowers” (click this to see my comments).
At that time I thought it was drinking the water contained in the
On the 27th October 2010 I watched for 1.5 hours a feeding frenzy interrupted by migratory raptors and flocks of migratory pigeons.
When I left they were still at it.
I was first alerted by a pair of Little Spiderhunters (Arachnothera
longirostra cinereicollis) who flew into the African Tulip Tree.
This was at 8.40am. I was about 20-25 meters away but stayed in the
car as they looked nervous at my presence. I was surprised to see them feeding from the flower.
After watching for a while I decide to try and get closer as many more
birds were making their way to the tree. There was a flock of birds in a feeding frenzy, some squabbling with each other over “rights” to the nectar.
1. Yellow Vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier analis) – around 12-15
(the most quarrelsome)
2. Jungle Mynass (Acridotheres fuscus torquatus) – around 8-12
3. Asian Glossy Starlings (Aplonis panayensis strigata) – a large
flock, more than 30
4. Brown-throated Sunbirds (Anthreptes malacensis malacensis – a pair feeding but no pictures
5. Green-billed Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus tristis longicaudatus) – one
turned up in the tree but I doubt it feed on the nectar (did not see
it do so)
1. Some finished feeding and more came as I watched so numbers may be underestimated.
2. They drank many times and were not satisfied with tiny sips.
3. Feeding from this deep cup was difficult for some birds and they
had to immerse the whole head and upper part of the body to get
access. Even then hard to drink.
4. One Yellow Vented Bulbul got smart and pierced the base of a flower to drink. The others did not seem to learn this.
5. I then checked out 2 other African Tulip Trees in the area and both
had some birds feeding but not in the number at this tree. I suspect not every bird knows how to drink from the nectar of this tree but
birds in some regions may have learned how to (wonder if watching the Spiderhunter drinking is a learned behaviour).
6. YC Wee (Tropical trees and shrubs – A selection for urban
plantings, 2003) states that “The flower buds are filled with a sweet
watery sap…” Barwick M (Tropical and Subtropical Trees: An Encyclopedia, 2004) states that “Like frilly tulips, they (the flowers) are held erect, cupping their copious nectar and attracting throngs of birds.”
So perhaps the Malaysian birds are learning what the African birds
already know. However I have hardly seen this phenomena much.
7. The breast of some of the bird is stained yellow by the pollen of
Found one reference to similar activity locally. Please click this to read.
Also note, http://www.itslife.in/2010/05/african-tulip-tree “The flowers holds the rain water and dew and this seems to be an inviting drink for many birds like Myna, Humming bird, Sun Birds etc.