Contributed by Alan OwYong and Lim Kim Keang. Photos: Terence Tan, Foo Sai Khoon and Alan OwYong.
On 30th May, Wendy Lin and her friends went to Seletar Reservoir Park to look for the uncommon Chestnut-winged Babblers, Stachyris erythroptera, that Francis Yap shot days earlier. They did not see the Babblers but came across the Red-crowned Barbets Magalaima rafflesii, feeding on large green berries on a tree by the roadside. The tree was identified by Albert Low as the Green Coffee Tree, Canthium glabrum . It is a native in Singapore and classified as endangered. The fruit is round to oval, green to dark purple when ripe but described in NParks Flora and Fauna Web as 4-ridged shape between 2.5 to 3.2 cm. There are two seeds in each fruit.
Red-crowned Barbet having a hard time choosing which fruit to take. Photo: Terence Tan.
The Red-crowned Barbet was observed by Lim Kim Keang to squeeze the ripe fruit and eat the pulp, They will also swallow the fruit and later regurgitate and swallow the fruit repeatedly to get all the pulp.
The Red-crowned Barbet is an uncommon breeding resident confined to our central forests. They are hard to see at the Sime Forest nowadays but can be heard calling from the tree canopies in the mornings. So when word got out that they are feeding there, Selatar Reservoir Park became the latest hot spot for our birders and photographers. The fruits were enough to keep them coming back for more than a month.
A male Blue-winged Leafbird surrounded by the fruits of the Green Coffee Tree. Photo: Terence Tan
And like all fruit trees they invariably attract other frugivores like the Common Hill Mynas, Orange-breasted Flowerpeckers, Pink-necked Green Pigeons, Olive-winged and Cream-vented Bulbuls. Even the non breeding Jambu Friut-Dove was seen partaking the feast. A Blue-winged Leafbird was also photographed there but it maybe looking for worms that are eating the ripened fruits.
The Common Palm King enjoying the ripe fruit of the Green Coffee Tree.
Besides birds the forest butterflies can be seen first feeding on the ripe fruits on the ground and later flying around the fruits on the tree. A Common Palm King was busy taking in the juices from the ripe fruits. Sailors and Lascars joined in the feast. Other species seen by Kim Keang flying around the tree were Saturn, Malay Viscount and female Barons.
An interesting capture of the Red-crowned Barbet surrounded by the Sailors, Lascar and the fruits of the Green Coffee Tree. Photo: Foo Sai Khoon.
The surprise was that the Long-tailed Macaques were not the least interested in these fruits. The only mammals seen eating them were the ever present Plantain Squirrels. This would be a good plant to propagate to attract birds and butterflies and increase the biodiversity in our parks and gardens.
Reference: National Parks Board Flora and Fauna Web.
A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore.Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Le Tiah Khee. 2013 John Beaufoy Publishing Company.
A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Singapore. Gan Cheong Weei and Simon Chan Kee Mun. 2007.