Sunbirds

© Shem Compion
White-bellied Sunbird feeding

South Africa has 21 species of sunbirds found locally. They all fall under the family Nectariniidae, referring to their preference for feeding on nectar. 

Special feeding adaptations.

Nectar is a sugar-rich food source that is utilised by means of a very long tongue and a specialised bill. The tongue is tubular with some projections at the tongue tip that are used to suck up the nectar, using capillary action.  The tongue can be extended, out of the beak, to almost the same length of the beak.
The bill is slender and curved, with a sharp point. The bill has a serrated tip to enable the sunbird to break into the corolla of the flower. Most feeding is done by poking the beak down into the flower.

Other special adaptations

It is thought that some of the sunbirds are able to slow down their metabolism at night and in very cold weather to save energy. The wings are short and rounded, allowing the sunbirds capable of sustained hovering.

Sexual Dichromatism

Most species of sunbirds have sexual dichromatism, meaning there is a distinct difference between the male and female colouring and plumage.

Amethyst Sunbird

Amethyst sunbird are monogamous. The female builds a thick walled oval shaped nest of grass and leaves, often held together with spider’s webs, with a hooded entrance....more

Collared Sunbird

The male collared sunbird has a yellow belly with glossy green upperparts and a narrow blueish-purple breast band....more

Malachite Sunbird

The malachite sunbird favours nectar from aloes and will feed by either perching or hovering. They also hawk flying insects....more

Scarlet-chested Sunbird

The scarlet-chested sunbird is a sexual dichromatism species of bird (The male and female have different plumage)....more

White-bellied Sunbird

White-bellied sunbirds are a sexual dichromatism species of bird (The male and female have different plumage)....more