Courtship behaviour of Olive-backed Sunbird

posted in: Courtship-Mating, Sunbirds | 4


I was in the garden a few mornings ago when suddenly there was a series of loud chatters coming from next door. A pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds (Cinnyris jugularis, formerly Nectarinia jugularis) that had just landed in the bougainvillea bush were making the ruckus.

These birds normally arrive in pairs or in a small group, darting in and out of the foliage rather rapidly. They seldom remained in one spot for long. And all the time the constant loud tweet-tweet-tweet that announces their presence. Normally I would simply ignore them as they are not easy to locate among the foliage and once located, they would invariably move on.

But not this time. I spotted a male with his metallic blue chest slightly puffed up, perching on a branch. The two feet were firmly clutching the branch but the body was in constant motion. First he turned to the right, then to the left and to the right again. This went on and on and all the time he was calling loudly, his bill opened and pointing upwards. Once in a while he straightened his body, with his head and bill pointing skyward.

Then he moved to a nearby branch and continued the ritual. Suddenly he crouched, spread his wings low down and quivered them for a short while, again all the time calling loudly. The female was nearby watching but did not come close.

Then all of a sudden he darted off the bush, not to another tree but to the far beyond. And just as suddenly his mate followed.

Quiet returned.

YC Wee
April 2007

Follow YC Wee:

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

4 Responses

  1. angie

    I recall seeing some fantastic images of the OBSunbird’s mating dance taken by KC Tsang, emailed on 03 March 2006. Unforgettable!

  2. TH

    Can any tell me whether the nest will be reused after the chick is mature. Thanks.

    • YC

      Yes, the nest will be reused, again and again. But it is difficult to tell whether by the same pair or a different pair.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.