Delightfully fooled by Common Tailorbirds: 1. Male, sham nesting

posted in: Nesting | 1

“Our garden is rather ‘wild’ (overgrown) and often host a number of nesting birds. We spotted an adult male Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius maculicollis) building a nest outside our kitchen window (tinted glass). The bird was using a ficus bush that had been ‘planted’ by one of the garden birds.

“There were however a number of atypical features:
1. It was only the male building the nest. Wells 2007 states ‘… only the female stitches and competes the 35-45 knots in about two days. The nest is built mainly (perhaps exclusively) by the female although both pairs-members bring nesting material‘. On five different occasions between 7-29th June 2015 we saw the male come to stich the ficus bush leaves. The female was occasionally present but I did not see her stitch.

2. We knew from the beginning that this nesting site would not work as the leaves used were at the top of the bush at a height of ~3 meters. The ficus bush is still rather young and bends easily with minimal weight or rain. Yet the bird tried 5 different leaves over 2-3 weeks.

3. What is most unusual was that the male would advertise with loud calls while building the nest. Almost as if to indicate ‘see here I am building a nest’. There was no female response to his calls.

“On the 29th June 2015 we spotted the real nest that was almost complete and situated in a quieter part of the garden (details on this later).

“The tailorbirds have always been aware that we are keen observers and take care to be quiet or limit movements when we are present. We suspect that the male was building sham nests to distract us while the female quietly completed the real nest. We were happy to be fooled.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS & Datin Dr Swee-Im Lim
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
7-29th June 2015

Location: Canning Garden Home, Ipoh City, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Wild urban environment

One Response

  1. Good observations of a bird using deception to enhance their survival.
    I like the images of the tailorbird gripping onto the edge of the leave – can imagine the leave blade being pulled together for stitching into a nest. :)

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