A female koel inspecting a Ficus drupacea fig tree at Tg Aru beach that is about to fruit, having been attracted by the call of a male koel.

Tanjong Aru beach on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu is famous both  for it’s  delightful shady casuarina trees  and it’s wealth of birdlife. These two attractions are connected. Many of the birds nest in the hollow branches of the casuarina trees and feed on the insects  that live on the casuarinas.  Another reason for the abundant bird life at Tg Aru beach is both the number  and variety of fig trees growing in the beach forest and the gardens next to the beach. Two figs, Ficus microcarpa and Ficus drupacea are particularly common  at Tg Aru and when they fruit attract hordes of pigeons and starlings to feed on the fruit.

The most reliable indicator of a fruiting fig  at Tg Aru are the  constant calls of  a male  koel,   kuwau,      kuwau,        kuwau,       kuwau.   The black  male koel calls endlessly to invite  female koels to join him in a fig feast.  Koels are fig eating specialist cuckoos which parasitize other birds to bring up their young by laying their eggs in the nest of a host bird usually a starling or crow.

Ficus drupacea Koel Tg Aru beach
The black male koel is usually the first arrival at a fruiting fig tree often arriving well before the figs are actually ripe The calls of the male attract female koels and other birds and animals that feed on figs.
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Even though these  Ficus drupacea figs will not ripen for about 10 days they attracted a male koel who advertised  the coming  fig feast by calling constantly all day and sometimes at night. The photos below show a few of the birds and  animals that arrived to inspect the impending fig crop.
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Green Imperial Pigeons are usually the first birds to arrive when Ficus drupacea  figs ripen. Their gape (wide open beak)  is big enough to swallow figs whole. Smaller birds have to wait  until the figs become soft and can be pecked  into  smaller pieces, before swallowing.
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Plantain Squirrels are often seen in fruiting  Ficus drupacea fig trees. They feed both on the ripe figs and the insects also attracted by the figs.
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Once the figs are soft, Pink-necked Green pigeons can break up the figs and swallow the fig seeds. Green Pigeons are fig seed predators whilst Imperial pigeons are fig seed dispersers and the fig seeds pass unharmed through their guts.
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The  flock of  rare Blue-naped Parrots that lives  at Tg Aru beach relies on fruiting figs for a large part of their diet.
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Yellow-vented Bulbuls eat both fruit and insects and often feed in fruiting figs.
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A feral flock of Chinese Crested Mynas has been breeding at Tg Aru beach since 1978. The mynas nest in holes in old casuarina trees and it is believed that they are the most popular brood host selected by female koels to bring up their chicks. Like their enemies the koels, Crested Mynars also eat ripe figs.
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Once the fig crop is ripe Glossy Starlings  arrive in large flocks to clear up all the remaining figs.
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Java Sparrow  inspecting the fig crop. (Photo Honor Phillipps)
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Tanjong Aru beach,  one of the finest  public parks and bird watching sites in SE Asia is currently scheduled to be converted into 7 separate tourist resorts to host thousands of tourists from mainland China – despite the opposition of many locals.