Orthotomus sutorius, Common Tailorbird, Cinenen Pisang

Written by on November 19, 2010 in Indonesia Bird with 0 Comments

Orthotomus sutorius, Common Tailorbird, Cinenen Pisang

The Common TOrthotomus sutorius, Common Tailorbird, Cinenen Pisangailorbird ( Orthotomus sutorius) is a songbird found across tropical Asia. Popular for its nest made of leaves “sewn” together and immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in his Jungle Book, it is a common resident in urban gardens. Although shy birds that are usually hidden within vegetation, their loud calls are familiar and give away their presence

These 13-cm-long warblers are brightly coloured, with bright green upperparts and whitish underparts. They have short rounded wings, a long tail, strong legs and a sharp bill with curved tip to the upper mandible. They are wren-like with a long upright tail that is often moved around. The crown is rufous and the upperparts are predominantly olive green. The underside is creamy white. The sexes are identical, except that the male has long central tail feathers in the breeding season. Young birds are duller.

This passerine bird is typically found in open farmland, scrub, forest edges and gardens. Tailorbirds get their name from the way their nest is constructed. The edges of a large leaf are pierced and sewn together with plant fibre or spider’s web to make a cradle in which the actual grass nest is built. The Common Tailorbird builds its nest in a shrub and lays 3?5 eggs.
Like most warblers, the Common Tailorbird is insectivorous. The song is a loud cheeup-cheeup-cheeup with variations across the populations. The disyllabic calls are repeated continuously.
The scientific name sutorius means “cobbler” rather than “tailor” while Orthotomus means “straight-cutting”.
Taxonomy and systematics

The species was earlier placed in the family Sylviidae but more recent molecular studies place the species within the family Cisticolidae, along with Prinia and Cisticola.

A number of subspecies are recognized within its widespread range. The nominate race is from the lowlands of Sri Lanka. Race fernandonis is found in the highlands of Sri Lanka. Neighbouring India has guzuratus in the peninsula and west to Pakistan while towards the north patia is found in the terai of Nepal along the Himalayan foothills until Myanmar. The hills of northeastern India have luteus. In Southeast Asia inexpectatus and maculicollis are found in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. The islands of Hainan, Tonkin have longicauda while edela is found on Java.
Behaviour and ecology

The breeding season is March to December peaking from May to August. In Sri Lanka the main breeding season is March to May and August to September.Although the name is derived from the nest, the nest is not unique and similar nests are also found in many Prinia warblers. The nest is a deep, soft cup lined with soft materials and is placed in thick foliage and the leaves used to hold the nest have the upper surfaces outwards so that the nest is difficult to spot. The punctures made on the edge of the leaves are minute and do not cause browning of the leaves, further aiding camouflage. The nest lining of a nest in Sri Lanka that was studied by Casey Wood was found to be lined with lint from Euphorbia, Ceiba pentandra and Bombax malabaricum species. Jerdon had noted that the bird made knots, however no knots have been described by subsequent observers. Wood classified the processes used by the tailorbird in nest as sewing, rivetting, lacing and matting. In some cases the nest is made from a single large leaf; the margins of which are rivetted together. Sometimes the fibres from one rivet are extended into an adjoining puncture and appearing more like sewing. The stitch is made by piercing two leaves and drawing fibre through them. The fibres fluff out on the outside and in effect they are more like rivets. There are many variations in the nest and some may altogether lack the cradle of leaves. One observer noted that the birds did not utilize cotton that was made available while another observer, Edward Hamilton Aitken, was able to induce them to use artificially supplied cotton. The usual clutch is three eggs.The incubation period is about 14 days and the young birds fledge in about 14 days. The female alone incubates but both parents take part in feeding and sanitation. An unusual case of a pair of tailorbirds adopting chicks in an artificially translocated nest belong to a different pair has been recorded.

The birds roost alone during the non-breeding season but may roost side-by-side during the breeding season, sometimes with the newly fledged juvenile sandwiched between the adults. The roost sites chosen are thin twigs on trees with cover above them and were often close to human habitation and lights.
In culture

Rudyard Kipling in his Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, one of his Jungle Book stories includes a tailorbird Darzee (which means “tailor” in Urdu) as one of the key characters. Kipling’s Darzee is said to have feigned injury, but this behaviour is unknown in this species. The local names of the bird in India include phutki (Hindi) and tuntuni (Bengali). A classic book of children’s folk tales in Bengali by Upendrakishore Ray is titled “Tuntunir Boi”.

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