While out birding, two weeks back, we noticed two species of birds (the Brahminy Starling and the Common Myna)– both cavity-nesters – carrying something in their beaks. Close examination revealed they were the leaves of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica). Why were they carrying the leaves? Did they consume them?
Walking further, we saw the common mynas entering a cavity on the coconut tree trunk near the Vegetable Garden. There were several active nests and some had chicks. I have also seen the Brahminy Starlings occupying nest cavities. The birds were carrying the leaves to the nests.
Leaves of the neem are well-known for their medicinal values traditionally and now with research, scientists have discovered their anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties besides other medicinal values. Birds seem to have independently discovered these values and have been using them in their nests to protect their chicks from harmful bacteria and fungus. Several research papers now confirm this. There is so much out there we can learn by observation.