Sunbird the bird that reflects the sun

Image of a male sunbird.

There are over one hundred species of sunbirds. 

Most are located in tropical Africa, but they can also be found in Asia, Australia, and even the Pacific islands. 

As beautiful as they are varied, sunbirds reflect the sun like tiny metallic mirrors, displaying a rainbow of radiant colors: iridescent reds, yellows, blues, and greens as well as shades of copper.

Sunbirds usually invite comparison with American hummingbirds. 

Like hummingbirds, they are exquisitely colored and are nectar feeders. 

However, they are larger than hummingbirds and lack the flying skill of their North American counterparts.

Generally, the sunbird extracts its nectar by perching right on a blossom and using its long, curved beak to reach deep inside the throat of blooms. 

But if a tubular-shaped flower is too long for its reach, the sunbird may pierce the flower base and drain it of its precious contents. 

They also feed on insects that they pick off flowers and nearby foliage.

The males are also accomplished singers. 

Their repertoire varies from the thin metallic tssp of the superb sunbird to the beautiful tsik-tsik-tsik-tsik-tsit tree-tree-turrrr uttered by the scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird of East Africa. 

Often it is their song that indicates their presence in thick bush. 

However, once they are spotted, they are quite noticeable in the dry, brown background of the African veld.

Diligent but Not Dazzling


Image of a sunbird

While the male sunbird is a delight to see and hear, the female is smaller and rather dull in color. 

She is therefore often ignored by bird-watchers and photographers. 

In fact, she is usually noticed only when she is in the company of a male. 

But what the female lacks in color, she certainly makes up for in diligence.

It is the female who ordinarily builds the nest and does most of the actual work of rearing the brood. 

While she occupies herself with the nesting chores, the male stands watch, prepared to expel intruders from the nesting site.

Hanging Nests


image of a female sunbird building a nest.

Sunbird nests are hardly things of beauty, though.

They often look like little more than bits of rubbish that have been collected by a passing wind and snagged on an acacia thorn.

Resembling a hanging, dewdrop-shaped sock, a sunbird nest is made of plant fiber woven or matted together and bound with spider webs.

The outside of the nest is cleverly decorated with tiny twigs, dead leaves, bits of lichen, and often a dangling seedpod or two for good measure.

Inside, the nest is lined with plant down, soft grass, feathers, and other delicate material.

The entrance is a small hole on one side, near the top.

The female often incubates alone.

As she sits inside her pear-shaped nest, her long, curved beak can usually be seen protruding from the nest hole.

She lays one or two eggs, which will hatch in about 14 days.

When the young leave the nest, they are always plain in color like their mother.

However, as the males start to mature, they begin to develop the glorious plumage that will one day distinguish them as birds of the sun.