Nesting of Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers
Thanks to a lead by Morten Strange, I was able to record the nesting of a pair of Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers (Dicaeum cruentatum) and the antics of the two nestlings during April this year.
The nest was an oval pouch woven from grass blades, plant fibres and narrow dried leaves. There was a large opening near the upper end. The inner surface was comfortably lined with white plant fibres, probably floss from the fruits of the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra). The entire structure was firmly attached to a slender outer branch of an Horsfieldia tree whose numerous flower buds were about to burst into blooms. The nest hanged between the two ranks of large leaves that provided shade from the rain and sun.
Peeping out of the large opening were two large nestlings, with darkish heads and prominently large orange beaks. The parent bird was around somewhere, tick-tick-ticking all the time. Whenever I imitated the sound, the two nestlings immediately opened their beaks to expose the reddish inner lining of the buccal area.
I managed to observe only the female bird feeding the nestlings, bringing them green mistletoe fruits that the babies eagerly gobbled. I was told by Morten that the male bird was extremely shy, not wanting to approach the nest whenever there was someone around. This was not so with the female bird, who fed the nestlings at the rate of once every few minutes, even when I was below the tree. And Morten detected a distinct difference in the calls of the two sexes.
The parent birds regularly removed large faecal sacs that were packed with green mistletoe seeds. Apparently such a service was not efficient. When a parent bird removed the sac from one nestling, the other simply turned round, pointed its posterior towards the entrance and started to excrete the mucous-covered seeds one by one.
Checking the ground below, I was surprised to find masses of mistletoe seeds coated with mucilage lying on the ground.
The nestlings had since fledged, leaving the empty nest hanging from the branch between the rows of leaves. However, a few days later the empty nest disappeared.Text and images by YC.