Olive-backed sunbirds build nest at Sengkang family's potted plant, humans enjoy free science lesson

Their experience living there was so good that they returned a year later to nest again.

Zhangxin Zheng | April 05, 2017, 12:28 PM

The olive-backed sunbird is a common resident to Singapore, which you might see, albeit fleetingly, once in awhile.

Photo by Wee Yeow Chin, Digital Nature Archive

What you might not know about them, though, is that they often build nests suspended from branches of potted plants and other decorative structures — sometimes even ones located along HDB corridors.

One family in Sengkang, which blogs online under the moniker SengkangBabies, owns one of this select group of potted plants.

They were first visited by a male sunbird on recce in March last year...

Screenshot from SengkangBabies blog

... who decided their family's plant would make a good home, and went on to build a nest with his wife, who lay eggs and raised one youngling (the other died after aggressiveness by the surviving chick).

Egg incubation takes between 11 and 16 days, followed by active care in the nest for another 13 to 16 days:


Accommodation review: 5 stars

It seems the sunbird parents had such a positive experience raising their young last year that they decided to return.

And this time, thankfully, both eggs hatched:

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Mommy #olivebackedsunbird back with creepy crawlies 😁, counted two hungry chicks 🐥 First one hatched 08Mar and 2nd pop out over last 48hours 😍 #sengkangbabies #sunbird #olivebackedsunbird #skb小鸟

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And both survived:

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#skb小鸟 update. The TOP chick is the alpha, eat more chirp more and fledging now. At first look, looks like cosy siblings, but the bigger chick is actually suppressing its younger sibling. Whenever food is delivered, Guess who eat the most 😅Nature can be amazing, cruel too 😍Learning opportunity for kids #sengkangbabies #olivebackedsunbird #sunbird #nparksbuzz

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The bullying doesn't stop though, as you can see.

Here's the Daddy sunbird on sentry duty:

Photo from SengkangBabies

One change the family noticed this year is that the nest had a new "side window" that facilitated much easier viewing for them — these three pictures show their transformation from black to yellow:

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Eyes opened just 3 days ago, hair growing. Estimated length about 4 to 5cm. When did their 'HDB' nest has a side window 😆I think the chicks are cute but Mum thinks they look too bald 😂 #nparksbuzz #sunbird #sengkangbabies #skb小鸟

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#skb小鸟 looks like a little chick from this angle, love the plushy yellow coat. Too lepak lah 😆, he should be exercising and preparing for takeoff (estimated within 7 days) now. #nparksbuzz #olivebackedsunbird #sunbird #sengkangbabies

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And fluffy:

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#angryBird NOT 😆but 2nd chick #skb小鸟 is still plump and cute. Flew off with parents 2 days ago. Before that he actually flew to neighbour's home twice , and Neighbour brought him back😂 #sengkangbabies Hope there will be a season 3 next time 👍

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Here's a video from a camera they lodged in place to spy on the family's comings and goings:

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On one occasion, where the younglings were learning to fly, one of them risked a near-death-or-injury incident, thankfully saved by one of the children:

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A really good opportunity for the kids to witness science unfolding right before their eyes, right outside their home.

Anyway, in case you're interested to know what else happened with the sunbird family, here's a rundown:

- On the same day when the younger fledgling got stuck, his/her older sibling flew off.

- Four days later on Mar 28, the family said the younger fledging also flew off with its parents, marking the end of their stay in the potted plant for this year.

Olive-backed sunbirds are known to re-use their nesting spot up to seven times, so if the family is lucky, the sunbirds might just return to start more families over a few more years.

Top photo collage from screenshots of SengkangBabies Instagram

More bird-nesting science in action, right here in Singapore:

S’pore lady tracks growth of 2 rare birds outside her house over 17 days, results are amazing

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