The elegant sunbird is a stunning bird with a green- and blue-capped head, reddish ear cover and neck, an olive back, and a yellow belly. Like other sunbirds, the male of this species is colorful — at least during breeding season — while the female is drab. The elegant sunbird is confined to one small island in Indonesia, where its population is fragmented by habitat loss and degradation. These species are highly endangered
Sunbirds are small birds that belong to the family of spiderhunters. There are 132 species of sunbirds that can be found in Africa, Asia and Australia. Sunbirds inhabit forests, open scrublands, savannas, coastal areas, plantations, gardens and agricultural fields. Some species of sunbirds facilitate dispersal of parasitic plants, such as mistletoe, which decrease the yield of commercially important plants. Seven species of sunbirds (mostly those that inhabit islands and remote or restricted areas) are endangered due to accelerated habitat loss (deforestation due to development of agriculture and industrialization).
Interesting Sunbirds Facts:
Sunbirds can reach 4 to 10 inches in length and 0.2 to 1.6 ounces of weight. Males are larger than females.
Sunbirds are brightly colored birds, covered with the various combination of green, purple, blue, red and yellow feathers. Males are more intensely colored than females (plumage often has a metallic sheen).
Sunbirds have thin, downward-curved bill and tubular tongue covered with bristles. They have direct, fast type of flight thanks to short wings and long tail (longer in males).
Sunbirds are diurnal birds (active during the day).
Diet of sunbirds is based mostly on nectar. They occasionally consume fruit, insects, and spiders. Insects are the basic source of food for the young birds (they provide proteins which are essential for growth and development).
Sunbirds can hover in front of the flowers (like hummingbirds) or perch on the branches when they extract nectar from the flowers. Despite great similarity with hummingbirds, sunbirds and hummingbirds are not closely related. Similar morphology is the result of convergent evolution: unrelated species develop same morpho-anatomical features due to a similar lifestyle.
Sunbirds play important role in the pollination of many tubular flowers (bees and butterflies cannot reach nectar hidden on the bottom of the “tube”).
Sunbirds are non-migratory birds (sedentary birds). They reside in same habitats all year round and travel short distances toward the areas that provide more food.
Some species of sunbirds decrease body temperature and lower their metabolic rate during the night. State of decreased physiological activity, known as torpor, preserves energy.
Sunbirds produce unpleasant, insect-like calls for communication. This is one of the reasons why these birds are not popular as cage birds.
Sunbirds live in pairs or small family groups. Males are often territorial and aggressive.
The mating season of sunbirds takes place during the wet period of the year. Formed couples of sunbirds mate for a lifetime (monogamous birds).
Female lays 1 to 3 eggs in the purse-shaped nest made of plant fibers, moss, and spider webs. Nest hangs from the branches and holds eggs 18 to 19 days (until they hatch). Both parents participate in the rearing of the chicks.
Cuckoos and honeyguides often lay eggs in the nest of sunbirds.
Sunbirds can survive up to 7 years in the wild.