Olive-backed Sunbird: A tragic ending

posted in: Nesting-failed | 8

This is Kennie Pan’s sad experience with a pair of nesting Olive Backed Sunbirds (Cinnyris jugularis):


The female Olive Backed Sunbird was seen building her nest around mid-January 2009 (above). When finished, she was not seen for about five to seven days. Then she returned and laid an egg on 2nd February. The female adult was always at the nest at night. Then ten days later the egg hatched. Both the adults helped in feeding the chick as they flew to and from the nest the entire day to feed the chick.

The image below (left) shows the female adult in the nest with the nictitating membrane covering the eye, the image on the right shows the eye without the membrane.

Unfortunately some children noticed the nest and destroyed it. The damaged nest was on the ground with the chick thrown out. Kennie found the chick, put it back into the damaged nest but the adults were nowhere in sight. After a long wait and with no sign of the adults returning, he brought it home to care for it.

For four and a half days he fed the chick but then it suddenly died. The chick was naked and its eyes were still closed, but there were signs that they were about to open. Sunbird chicks are said to open their eyes about five days after hatching.

The one day chick (above left) is naked and with closed, bulging black eyes. Note the extended abdomen with the viscera and almost empty yolk sac seen through the thin skin. On both sides of the developing bill are the prominent swollen flanges. When the chick gapes to beg for food, the coloured flanges act as “food targets” for the parent bird. The side view (above right) shows the swollen black eye. The black strips on the developing wing are the feather tracts.

The dead chick is now with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore.

All images by Kennie Pan.

This post is a cooperative effort between NaturePixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

8 Responses

  1. Raj

    Very sad, unfortunately, our education system is far behind in educating our children’s how to treat the nature & animals around us.

  2. Jane

    Sadly I had a pair of olive sunbirds build a nest at my corridor. They had been other sunbirds which built their nest in our corridor but either the eggs were abandoned or in one occassion the baby chick was abandoned and found dead in the nest. As for the pair in question they successfully raised a single young chick. Unfortunately the little chick got spooked by us when we opened the door and it was still learning how to fly. And it flew off our corridor and got separated from the parents. The parents came by looking for their chick but it was nowhere to be found. Real sad. I just pray its alright.

  3. Ken

    I found an Olive Backed Sunbird chick… full feather just without tail. Need help as I can’t find the mum… how to feed and care for it.

  4. Deepika

    a sun bird built a nest and laid two eggs about three days back. we only discovered today that the mother bird was dead. we are trying to incubate the eggs. literally haveno idea what to do. any information will be welcome.

  5. YC

    If the father bird is still around, he will incubate the eggs. Otherwise I am afraid there is nothing anyone can do.

  6. Laurel Clothier

    We have a baby sunbird with feathers dead in its nest. I am so sad to watch the parent bird trying to remove it in vain after the weeks and weeks of amazing care. I don’t dare interfere. Nature can be so cruel!

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