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Common Tailorbird
Orthotomus sutorius

Long-tailed Tailorbird,
Laki Padi/Perenjak Pisang (Malay)

They are indeed the most common Tailorbird in Singapore. Quite bold with humans, they are rapidly colonising urban areas, seen even in high-rise balconies.

Like others in their family, Common Tailorbirds are strong singers, making melodious calls which seem much louder than seems possible for such a tiny bird. Common Tailorbirds are active and restless; usually heard rather than seen. They constantly shift their perch in the understorey thickets, and make short, quick darting flights.

Tailorbirds eat insects: both adults and larvae, actively foraging for these in the understoreys of wooded habitats. They may also snack on small fruits, berries, sip some nectar or eat tiny seeds. They are usually found in pairs.

Breeding: In Sungei Buloh, the Tailorbirds begin breeding January, reaching a peak in February and March but continue to breed until June. They are also called Long-tailed because the male's breeding plumage features highly extended central tail feathers; up to 3cm longer!
Mangrove and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Main features: Small (12cm); upperparts olive, underparts creamy buff; bill long; thighs rufous; legs long; tail long.
common tailorbird
Photo from
Morten Strange

Centre of crown rufous; sides of head and underparts white; black patches on neck.

Female: Rufous restricted to the forehead.

Call: Described as a monotonous loud chwee-o; chi-up; chee-rup repeated quickly. Also a rapid descending trill of 5 notes.

In flight: Darting low flight in the understorey thickets.

Similar birds: Ashy Tailorbird (O. ruficeps): The Ashy has a red face while the Common only has a red crown; the Ashy is grey elsewhere while the Common is olive on the upperparts and pale below; the Common has a long tail which the Ashy lacks. Both of them have red thighs.

Status in Singapore: Very common resident throughout the island and North and South offshore islands.

World distribution: India to South China, and Southeast Asia (to Sumatra and Java).

Classification: Family Sylviidae (which includes Warblers and Babblers). World 552 species, Singapore 19 species.
Common Tailorbirds "sew" their nests out of green living leaves. They are particularly fond of the large leaves of the Simpoh Air tree (Dillenia suffruticosa). The nests are usually low, about 1m from the ground. For more about Tailorbirds in general and how they "sew" their nests out of leaves.

2-5 pastel eggs are laid, these are pastel blue with brown speckles. It appears only the female incubates, but both help raise the young. The young fledge in 24 days.

Status and threats: The Common Tailorbirds are not at risk in Singapore as they have adapted well to human interference. Common Tailorbirds are usually found in the forest edges, scrub and cultivated areas such as parks, gardens. They are also found in open country. But they are never seen in the deep forest.

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  • Morten Strange, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000 (p. 314: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
  • Lim Kim Seng and Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 111: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
  • G W H Davison and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995 (p. 109: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
  • Morten Strange and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing, 1993 (p. 57: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
  • Christopher Hails, "Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 132: habits, description, status in Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
  • Adeline Chia, "Nesting Behaviour of Birds in Sungei Buloh", Wetlands, Vol 7 No 2, Aug 00, Sungei Buloh Nature Park.
  • Ramakrishnan RK, "Journal of a Nature Warden: Common Tailorbird", Wetlands Vol 6 No 3, Dec 99 (p. 15; breeding, habitat, habits).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1992 (p. 15: status in Singapore).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay names).
  • M W F Tweedie, "Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970 (p. 49: description, distribution, habits, habitat, drawing).
  • Sir John A S Bucknill and E N Chasen, "Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia", Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 195-196: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, field notes on habits, drawings).
By Ria Tan, 2001