Party at Red Kapok

Red kapok (Bombax ceiba, 木棉) is known as the cotton tree or kapok tree. It is a common landscape tree in the tropical region of Asia. Although it has been widely planted in Hong Kong, I believe that it is not a native species to Hong Kong. The straight trunk has earned the name "heroic tree" in the Guangzhou region. There is even a song composed to glorify the kapok trees in full bloom by a Hong Kong Canto-pop singer Roman Tam.

Every spring, the bright red flowers creates a unique scenery. Along many streets of Hong Kong, kapok trees have been planted in rows. The flowers lays a carpet to welcome every city dweller to take a glance of the glamorous tree. The nectar from the red flowers would feed a lot of birds.They gather around flowering kapok trees. I observed that most birds feed in groups on the kapok trees. Various birds have their own strategies to taste the precious nectar which is available only once in a year.

Numerous Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus) feed on the kapok tree in groups. They are small birds next to the kapok flowers. Being smaller than a single petal of the flower, they have to elongate their necks and peck among the filaments. Other small birds include Cinereous tit (Parus cinereus).

It is spring now. It is easy to birds flying around in pairs, so are the Red-whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus). They obtain nutrients from the flowers. They often sit on branches, close to the receptacle of nearby flowers.

Red-billed blue magpie (Urocissa erythroryncha) seems to be the largest bird feeding on kapok tree. They attempted catching the bees around the flowers, but with low rate of success. They are opportunists and feed on everything. Smaller birds will keep a distance from the blue magpies whose presence implied possible danger.

However, in recent years, there is a phenomenon that both green and yellow leaves are observed concurrently with the red flowers. Reportedly, each Red kapok tree seems to bear fewer and fewer flowers. A possible cause is the local effects of the global climate change. The growth cycle of vegetation follows the signal of the weather. But when climate change sets in, the anomalies in the climatic environment faced by the trees disrupt the regularity in the growth cycle. Finally, I made a video with the birds seen on the kapok tree. Please take a look!

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