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Sunbirds are native to Asia, Africa, and Australia. They are small birds that comprise a family of 132 species of “spider hunters”, or their properly named family, Nectariniidae. They inhabit a variety of spaces including agricultural fields and gardens, forests, coasts, scrublands, and savannas.
Sunbirds, Tanagers and Honeycreepers
Types of Sunbirds
- Black-throated Sunbird (Aethopyga saturata)
- Bronzed Sunbird (Nectarinia kilimensis)
- Double-collared Sunbird (Nectarinia afra)
- Gould's Sunbird (Aethopyga gouldiae)
- Green-tailed Sunbird (Aethopyga nipalensis)
- Hunter's Sunbird (Nectarinia hunteri)
- Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra)
- Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis)
- Orange-breasted Sunbird (Nectarinia violacea)
- Ruby-cheeked Sunbird (Anthreptes singalensis)
- Scarlet-chested Sunbird (Nectarinia senegalensis)
- Tacazze Sunbird (Nectarinia tacazze)
- Variable Sunbird (Nectarinia venusta)
Sunbirds are approximately 4-9 inches in length. Male birds are usually brightly colored and larger than their female counterpart. Hues of Sunbird include green, blue, purple, black, and white. Some of these colors are not actually pigment, but instead a prism-like physical phenomenon employing light and iridescence. Like many bird species, the female of its kind are duller in color and not iridescent. Their wings are accordingly short and rounded, but their tail can be long in relation to their body in some species. Their beaks can be very long as well and help to pollinate tubular flowers that bees don't have access to. Its tongue is long, spit at the tip, and two thirds the length of the bird! These adaptations are to allow the bird to easily feed on flower nectar, like its serrated beak tip that makes gripping insects easier. Although the bird's color and feeding characteristics closely resemble that of Hummingbirds, they are unrelated.
Another trait shared by both Sunbirds and Hummingbirds is their ability to slow down their metabolism and lower their body temperature at night to conserve their energy. This decreased physiological activity state is called “Torpor”. Only some species of Sunbird have the ability.
Sunbirds aren't particularly migratory, but may change their feeding grounds during the non-breeding season. Males are aggressive during breeding season. Once two prospective partners have mated they make a purse-like nest that hangs, where the female will lay two white or pale blue spotted or striped eggs.
What does a sunbird eay?
Like bees and hummingbirds, Sunbirds serve a purpose as they feed on seeds and nectar from flowers. They are basically planting new ones with their droppings. In many cases this is a good thing, and in some a bad thing when the plant being spread is an invasive, unhelpful one. Sunbirds feed mainly on nectar, some fruit, insects, and spiders. Insects are often more consumed during breeding and raising young. It is the basic source of protein needed for young birds to grow.
Seven species of Sunbirds are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss. These seven species mainly live in isolated areas such as islands that are being developed agriculturally and industrially. As aforementioned, some species of Sunbirds are considered a pest for spreading the seeds of unwanted plants such as the Mistletoe which threatens some important commercial crops. The Sunbird's lifespan in nature and captivity is a mixed review, some say the Sunbird lives as long as 5 years, other species as long as 12 years. Some common species of observation and keeping are the Purple Sunbird and the Golden-Winged Sunbird.