Nesting of the Oriental White-eye
This is the first nesting report of the Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) after 1970 for Singapore. Yen Lau and K.C. Tsang first spotted a pair of the birds checking Yen’s 3 m high potted Australian bottlebrush (Callistemon rigidis) trees in her garden on 18th May 2006. Three days later they noticed a neatly weaved, cup-shaped nest that was 5 cm across. The nest, about 2 m from the ground, was constructed mostly of plant materials using cobwebs to attach it firmly to the branches.
Five days later the parent birds were in the nest most of the time. On 7th June three reddish chicks were seen crowding the nest. The adults took turns bringing food for the ever-hungry chicks every 15 minutes or so. The moment the chicks felt an adult landing on a nearby branch, they would eagerly raise their heads high with gaping beaks and made barely audible sounds. They were ever ready to receive whatever food brought to them. Between feedings, one or the other of the adult bird would sit in the nest to comfort the chicks. By 11th June the chicks had a sparse cover of black and yellow feathers. Of the three, one was larger and more boisterous than the rest. The nest was over-crowded and the youngest chick apparently fell off the nest three days later and died. Even with the remaining two chicks the nest was too small, but by then the older fledged. The adults were nearby encouraging it. By the same afternoon the second chick also fledged. Although neither Yen nor KC noticed the adults removing any faecal sacs, they must have as the nest was always tidy and the surrounding was free of excrements. Our consultant ornithologist, Wang Luan Keng, confirmed that this is the first report for modern Singapore (i.e. after 1970). There have been old records of nestings in Sime Road (1950), Pulau Tekong (very young birds,1920s) and Malaysia. Luan Keng thinks that there might be newer records too but she is not aware of. This bird disappeared from Singapore during the 1970s and there were only records of escapees. Since Gibson-Hill's 1950 record from Sime Road, there have been no confirmed records for Singapore until now.
Luan Keng added: “It's a good record. Looks like we need to re-evaluate the status of this species. Currently it is recorded as "extinct, former resident, common escapee".
Lim Junying wrote on 30th June, after KC’s report was circulated: “Indeed, they are very versatile when it comes to nesting spots. I once had a nest in a Chinese Juniper tree. Chicks didn't really show much activity whenever I came over to observe them, just a little movement.” It is a pity that Junying did not record his observations then.
This shows the importance of publishing your findings, however trivial you may think. After all, we are usually not aware of what is new and important until we let the ornithologists and experienced birders know about it. So keep your observations and findings coming and we at BESGroup will do your reporting and recording for you - within days if not a week or so, not months or years!
We thank Yen Lau and KC Tsang for the above report and images; Wang Luan Keng for technical information; and Lim Junying for additional information.