Sunbirds are a group of small Old World passerine birds that feed mainly on nectar but also take insects and small fruits (left top). When feeding their young, insects are the main diet.
Sunbirds are considered the jewels of the Old World tropics. Many species, especially the males, possess glittering iridescent colours. In morphology and nectar feeding behaviour, they remind one of the hummingbirds of the neotropics. In both groups, the females are plain. But sunbirds and hummingbirds are definitely not related.
Sunbirds are omnivorous, feeding primarily on nectar and insects. When feeding on nectar they prefer to perch rather than hover as hummingbirds do. For nectar, these birds probe a wide range of plant, rather than specialising on specific species. With exotic plants where the birds may not be able to reach the nectar, they may short circuit the process by probing through the base of the petals, as sometime they do with hibiscus flowers.
Sunbirds also glean the foliage for insects or sally for flying insects from the top of shrubs (left bottom). They also eat small fruits. And possibly also pollen.
Text by YC Wee, images of Purple-throated Sunbird (Nectariniua sperata) (top) and Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis) with an insect in its bill (bottom) are by Johnny Wee.