Plant-bird relationship: 2. Moraceae (figs, etc.)

posted in: Feeding-plants, Nesting, Plants, Reports, Roosting | 3

The need to compile a catalogue of Plant-Bird Relationship has already been discussed in Part 1 LINK. Part 2 starts with the catalogue itself, beginning with the plant family Moraceae. Ficus spp., mostly trees and shrubs, are members of this family. They are the most documented of the many bird plants and a favourite with fruit-eating birds LINK. Whenever a fig tree is in fruits, hordes of birds converge to feed on the figs. The noise these birds make can be heard some distance away. In fact it is said that you hear a fruiting fig tree long before you actually sees it.

The figs are not fruits. The unisexual flowers are found inside. The female flowers develop into tiny fruits when they are pollinated by tiny specialist fig wasps. These female wasps squeeze into the figs through a small opening at the end of the fig opposite the stalk to lay their eggs inside the gall or sterile flowers. When the eggs hatch, the wasps mate. The male wasp dies soon after while the female wasps find their way out of the fig. Crawling out of the opening, they are covered with pollen shed by the male flowers. Once out of the fig, these female wasps seek out other developing figs to lay their eggs. In the process they pollinate the female flowers. The fig plant and the fig wasp depend on each other for their survival. Without the wasp there would be no seeds developing. And without the plant, the wasp would not be able to propagate itself.

Members of Moraceae can easily be recognised (using F. elastica as an example above) by the presence of white latex that oozes out when any parts are damaged (above right). The simple leaves are arranged alternately along the twigs (above left) and young buds are capped by a pair of stipules, sometimes coloured (above centre) that drops off when the buds begin to grow. Flowers are small and unisexual, found in heads or inside an urn-shaped, fleshy receptacle (syconium) in the case of Ficus.

In the following list, the different species of birds that visit the plant are listed below each plant species. Details are as follows:
1. Common name of bird.
2. Whether for food, to forage for insects, to roost, to collect nesting material or to nest.
3. Author of the post.
4. Date of posting
5. Habitat if in Singapore (BTNR = Bukit Timah Nature Reserve), otherwise country.
6. Link to the actual post on the website.

Subsequent posts will deal with other groups of plants until all have been dealt with. We will then compile these separate posts into a major catalogue. Once the complete catalogue is posted, we aim to update the entries regularly – every 6 months or so.
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Family: Moraceae
1. Artocarpus integer (chempedak)
Common Flameback: fruit_JWee_180209_park – LINK

2. Ficus spp.
Barbets
Blue-eared Barbet: fruit_AmarSingh_120909_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Brown Barbet: fruit_AmarSingh_120909_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Gold-whiskered Barbet: fruit_AmarSingh_120909_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Bulbuls
Red-eyed Bulbul: fruit_AmarSingh_120909_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Spectacled Bulbul: fruit_AmarSingh_120909_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Hornbills
Great Hornbill: fruit_IngoWaschkies_240409_Thailand – LINK
Hornbill: fruit_Hornbill-Research-Foundation_Jan-08_Thailand – LINK
Leafbirds
Greater Green Leafbird: fruit_AmarSingh_120909_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Pigeons
Pink-necked Green-pigeon: nesting_YCWee_150512_urban-garden – LINK
Thrushes
Siberian Thrush: fruit_DaisyO’Neill_190411_Malaysia – LINK

3. Ficus auriculata> (Roxburgh’s fig)
Oriental Pied Hornbills: fruit_TSTan-080606_rural-Johor-Malaysia –LINK

4. Ficus benghalensis (banyan)
Asian Koel: fruit_SSreedharan_221011_India – LINK

5. Ficus benjamina (waringin, weeping fig)
Barbats
Blue-eared Barbet: fruit_AmarSingh_020712_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Coppersmith Barbet: fruit_AmarSingh_140810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Gold-whiskered Barbet: fruit_AmarSingh_251110_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Lineated Barbet: fruit_AmarSingh_140810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Lineated Barbet: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Red-crowned Barbet: fruit_JWee-ChanYokeMeng_041208_urban – LINK
Bee-eaters
Blue-throated Bee-eater: insects_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Bluebirds
Asian Fairy Bluebird: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Bulbuls
Ashy Bulbul: fruit_RSubaraj_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Black-crested Bulbul: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Black-headed Bulbul: fruit_AmarSingh_050310_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Cream-vented Bulbul: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Olive-winged Bulbul: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Red-eyed Bulbul: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Yellow-vented Bulbul: fruit_AmarSingh_140810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Yellow-vented Bulbul: fruit_MChan-YCWee_071206_forest – LINK
Yellow-vented Bulbul: fruit_RedzianARahman_080209_Malaysia – LINK
Yellow-vented Bulbul: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Yellow-vented Bulbul: nest-material_YCWee_280806 – LINK
Doves
Emerald Dove: ?fruit_AmarSingh_140810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Zebra Dove: ?fruit_AmarSingh_140810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Drongos
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo: insects_YongDingLi-RSubaraj_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK 1, 2
Flycatchers
Asian Paradise Flycatcher: insects_YongDingLi-RSubaraj_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK 1, 2
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher: insects_MChan-YCWee_071206_forest – LINK
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher: insects_YongDingLi-RSubaraj_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK 1, 2
Hornbills
Great Hornbill: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Oriental Pied Hornbills: MarkG-KennethLumb_120210_urban/park – LINK
Rhinoceros Hornbill: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Ioras
Common Iora: insects_AmarSingh_140810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Leafbirds
Blue-winged Leafbird: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Greater Green Leafbird: fruit_AmarSingh_171211_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Greater Green Leafbird: fruit_AmarSingh_171211_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Greater Green Leafbird: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Lesser Green Leafbird: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Mynas
Common Myna ?fruit_AmarSingh_140810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Hill Myna: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Javan Myna: fruit_MChan-YCWee_071206_forest – LINK
Javan Myna: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Orioles
Black-naped Oriole: fruit_AmarSingh_140810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Black-naped Oriole: fruit_MarkG_100909_park – LINK
Black-naped Oriole: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Pigeons
Pink-necked Green Pigeon: fruit_AmarSingh_140810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Thick-billed Green-pigeon: fruit_MarkG_070809_park – LINK
Thick-billed Green-Pigeon: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Shrikes
Tiger Shrike: insects_YongDingLi-RSubaraj_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK 1, 2
Starlings
Asian Glossy Starling: fruit_MChan-YCWee_071206_forest – LINK
Asian Glossy Starling: fruit_YongDingLi_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK
Glossy Starlings (Aplonis panayensis) [fr-Rahathurai 2006] Sunbirds
Brown-throated Sunbird: fruit_RSubaraj_071006-forest – LINK
Crimson Sunbird: insects_YongDingLi-RSubaraj_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK 1, 2
Tailorbirds
Dark-necked Tailorbird: insects_YongDingLi-RSubaraj_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK 1, 2
Thrushes
Blue Rock Thrush: fruit_AmarSingh_140810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Trillers
Pied Triller: insects_AmarSingh_140810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Warblers
Arctic Warbler: insects_YongDingLi-RSubaraj_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK 1, 2
Eastern Crowned Warbler: insects_YongDingLi-RSubaraj_Oct-06_BTNR – LINK 1, 2

6. Ficus benjamina ‘Variegated White’ (variegated waringin)
Olive-backed Sunbird: nesting_JaniceKwek_170711_highrise balcony – LINK

7. Ficus consociata (brown-scurfy fig)
Barbets
Blue-eared barbet: fr_AmarSingh_020812_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Gold-whiskered Barbet: fruit_AmarSingh_150712_Ipoh-Malaysia –
LINK
Flowerpeckers
Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker: fruit_AmarSingh_220712_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker: fruit_AmarSingh_170712_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker: fruit_JimmyTan_300608_Johor-Malaysia – LINK

8. Ficus fistulosa (common yellow-stem fig)
Hornbills
Great Hornbill: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Orioles
Black-naped Oriole: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Owls
Oriental Scops-Owl: roost_RonYeo-AlyceAng_210212_rural – LINK
Pigeons
Pink-necked Green Pigeon: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Starlings
Asian Glossy Starling: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK

9. Ficus grossularioides (white-leafed fig)
Babblers
Short-tailed Babbler: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Barbets
Coppersmith Barbet: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Red-crowned Barbet: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Bluebirds
Asian Fairy Bluebird: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Bulbuls
Olive-winged Bulbul: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Yellow-vented Bulbul: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Crows
House Crow: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Flowerpeckers
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Mynas
White-vented Myna: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Orioles
Black-naped Oriole: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Pigeons
Pink-necked Green Pigeon: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Starlings
Asian Glossy Starling: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK
Thrushes
Eyebrowed Thrush: fruit_KelvinSHPeh-ChongFongLin_080607_forest – LINK

10. Ficus religiosa (bodh, peepul)
Barbets
Coppersmith Barbet: insect_KCTsang_281207_park – LINK
Coppersmith Barbet: fruit_JayTan-JWee_131009_rural – LINK
Bulbuls
Yellow-vented Bulbul: fruit_MarkChua_080209_rural – LINK
Flycatchers
Asian Brown Flycatchers: insect_KCTsang_281207_park – LINK
Dark-sided Flycatchers: insect_KCTsang_281207_park – LINK
Mugimaki Flycatchers: insect_KCTsang_281207_park – LINK
Koels
Asian Koel: fruit_KCTsang-281207_park – LINK
Asian Koel: fruit_SSreedharan_221011_India – LINK
Paradise-flycatchers
Asian Paradise-flycatcher: insect_KCTsang_281207_park – LINK
Starlings
Asian Glossy Starlings fruit_KCTsang_281207_park – LINK
Warblers
Arctic Warblers: Mugimaki Flycatchers: insect_KCTsang_281207_park – LINK

11. Ficus villosa ()
Barbets
Blue-eared Barbet: fruit_AmarSingh_111110_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Brown Barbet: fruit_AmarSingh_111110_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Red-Throated Barbet: fruit_AmarSingh_111110_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Bulbuls
Hairy-backed Bulbuls: fruit_AmarSingh_111110_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Scaly-Breasted Bulbul: fruit_AmarSingh_250810_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Flycatchers
Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker: fruit_AmarSingh_111110_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker: fruit_AmarSingh_111110_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker: fruit_AmarSingh_111110_Ipoh-Malaysia – LINK

12. Morus sp. (mulberry)
Asian Koel: fruit_SSreedharan_221011_India – LINK

3 Responses

  1. DAISY O'NEILL

    Thanks YC
    Looks like it is going to be a jolly bumper crop Xmas coming from our Fern Specialist!

    Daisy

  2. Lee Chiu San

    Dear YC,

    Thanks for a most informative piece. Now, I request further information. I have mature trees over 10 meters tall of both Ficus benjamina and Ficus elastica in my garden. Every time the benjamina fruits, which is quite often, hordes of birds come to visit. Though I know from the text books that elastica also fruits, in the last three years in this house, and previously in another house, I have never seen this species fruit in Singapore.

    Is it because the associated wasp is not present in this country?

    Ficus elastica is an ornamental plant, commonly sold in pots. It does well indoors and in patios. In my opinion, it is a menace in gardens.

    While all Ficus have invasive roots, those of elastica take hostilities to a totally superlative level. It is generally accepted among horticulturalists that tree roots tend to extend underground about as far as their branches provide shade above ground.

    Ficus elastica knows no such limits. The roots extend 20 meters beyond the branches, into my vegetables, my flower beds and everywhere else.

    The roots also invade flower pots. Yes, they actually seek out fertile potting soil, grow upwards through the drainage holes of the pots, and strangle your plants within.

    To prevent this in my house, all the potted plants have to sit on bricks or tiles.

    Other plants also do not grow on Ficus (of all species). Attempts to tie orchids or tree ferns to their branches produce very sorry results.

    In my next house (where I am now staying is a temporary residence) I may consider Ficus benjamina again, as I had it in my last house. But I will have to make sure that it is kept some distance away from drains, flower beds and other items that the roots can damage.

    But I very much doubt that I will ever want another Ficus elastica anywhere near – unless YC can convince me otherwise.

    • HaHa. I will only plant F. elastica in pots, where I can have full control over it. I will not plant them in the ground near houses as they are stranglers, and the roots will definitely cause problems. Neither will I plant F. benjamina, another very aggressive strangler. Good luck to you if you do in your next house.

      F. elastica does produce figs, probably not as regular as every year. It is possible that it may fig once every so many years. It is also possible that the trees you are referring to are not old enough to fig. The fig wasp probably exists here as Corner records seedlings being found on roadside trees in Raub and Tras. Anyway presence of wasps is unrelated to figging but to the production of seeds.

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