Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker: 1. Introduction to nesting behaviour

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On the morning of 2nd January 2018, Michael Phua and myself were walking past the Belimbing tree (Averrhoa bilimbi) when we interrupted a small reddish bird placing dried stringy plant materials on the leaves above our heads. Michael at once concluded that the bird was starting a nest. I was skeptical but he insisted that he was right. Well, he was right. I suppose, being a general contractor, he was more inclined to recognise what was going on.

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker -mistletoe [wyc]

Initially we thought it was a sunbird. However, after viewing subsequent videos, I realise that it was a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) (above).

That afternoon saw only a few strands of brown plant materials attached to the axis of a compound leaf of the tree. The flowerpecker was flying back and forth to the tree, making its characteristic metallic tip-tip-tip call all the time.

The next day I set up my video camera to document the stages of nest construction. Should the nesting proceed further, I could even document the incubation, brooding and fledging phases.

According to Wells (2007), the nest is “suspended from a twig among foliage at the outer end of a lateral branch of a tall shrub or tree … 2-10m up; the nest pouch-shaped with circular side-entrance in the upper half, built of seed-pappus (including of Imperata grass) and other fine plant fibre, the latter used to bond it onto the support and reinforce the rim of the entrance-hole. The egg-chamber is thickly lined with downy fibre (that must help protect eggs as the nest is blown about), and cobweb and bark fragments are added externally… Clutch two… and broods of two fledge. Incubation and fledging periods unreported… Both pair-members collect nest-materials, and both tend fledglings.”

According to Cheke & Mann (2008), the nest small, pear-shaped, 90 x 60 mm, entrance near the top and with or without a porch. It is made up of vegetable down bound together with grass rootlets and spider webs, lined with downy fibres, decorated externally with spider webs and bark fragments, suspended from terminal twig 2-15m (usually 6-9m) above ground. Clutch 2-4 eggs, unglossed, grey-white, unmarked or faintly and sparsely flecked brownish. Incubation is by both sexes for 10-11 days. Both feed the chicks. There is no information on the duration of the nestling period

YC Wee
Singapore
6th January 2018

References:
1.
Cheke, R. A. & C. F. Mann, 2008. Family Dicaeidae (Flowerpeckers). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & D. A. Christie (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 13. Penduline-tits to Shrikes. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 350-389.
2. Cheke, R. A., Mann, C. F. & Allen, R. (2001). Sunbirds: A guide to the sunbirds, flowerpeckers, spiderhunters and sugarbirds of the world. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.
3. Wells, D.R., 2007. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London. 800 pp.

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