Anatomy of a nest: Common Tailorbird?

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I was trimming my starfruit tree (Averrhoa carambola) to remove the branches that were infringing on to my neighbour’s airspace. When collecting the branches, I was surprised to find a small nest attached to one of the end branches. So the nest was constructed high up the tree.

It was a smallish, oval nest, 14 x 8 cm, had a round opening 4 x 4 cm near the top (left). It was an untidy structure, with fibres sticking out all over the surface, looking like a mass of dried plant matters stuck to the branch.

The nest was firmly attached tied to the branch with masses of fibres. The round opening was lined with a defined rim of twisted fibres forming a distinct rim.

The fibres were carefully removed, identified and counted. Most of the fibres came from banana (Musa) and palms, making a total of 637 pieces, the longest being 31 cm. There were also 4 raffia strands and a single grass inflorescence branch. Loose lalang grass (Imperata cylindrical) floss scattered about the inner lining of the nest. There were also a few pieces of what looked like yellow spider cocoon silk, not specifically used to bind the fibres.

The Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) has always been around the tree, foraging for insects, mostly ants. So the nest was most probably that of the tailorbird. The bird is about 11-13 cm in length and appears to fit the nest.

Also, earlier postings of Common Tailorbirds’ nests appear to be of similar size and shape. However, they were always built inside one to a few leaves stitched together like leaves of simpoh air (Dillenia suffruticosa), ginger plant or garden creeper.

Can it be that this nest is incomplete? And that when completed one or more larger leaves (taken from somewhere else) would be incorporated?

YC Wee
Singapore
June 2008

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