Nesting of Olive-backed Sunbird in the HDB heartland

on 1st March 2009

“The building of the Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) nest was started some weeks prior to Chinese New Year (26th January 2009) along the balcony of Esther’s HDB apartment which is on a high floor (above left). The nest building left messy bits of twigs and other materials littering the balcony.

“Once completed, the nest appeared to have been abandoned for about a week, with only very occasional checks by the pair of sunbirds. Then on 25th January, the birds returned and the female nested inside at night (male adult inspecting nest: above middle).

“Two eggs were laid the following week, around 1st to 4th February. The eggs were grey with dark spots. They hatched on 8th February and the two little chicks started to have their feathers developing bit by bit each day. They also stuck their heads out when either one of their parents approached with food, mainly caterpillars, insects and spiders (bottom).

“The mummy sunbird was more careful when she approached the nest. She usually looked around for 1-3 minutes, making sure no predators were tailing her. She usually took up two positions, moving from one to the other, nearer and nearer before she flew to the nest (above right, female adult feeding chick). On the other hand the daddy sunbird at most times would just charge in to the nest and fed the two chicks (below male adult feeding chicks). At night, mummy sunbird would stay in the nest to keep the two chicks warm. Latest by 7pm she would arrive and stay till dawn.

“The chicks fledged on the morning of 22nd February, accompanied by lots of noise, with the parents flying around encouraging the little ones to fly off. Around 6pm both the parents returned to have a final look. Then they left…

“Although sad to see the birds go, Esther hopes that they would come back for a visit. This is a happy ending for this pair of nesting sunbirds” and two more chicks have fledged to fly around our neighbourhood.

The montage below shows the different foods the adult brought to feed the chicks.

Story by Esther Chang, Images by Micky Lim who did not used flash so as not to disturb the nesting birds. The nest with the male adult was taken on 28th January, around 10am to noon, while the feeding shots were taken on 16th February.

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

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

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.

Other posts by YC Wee

12 Responses

  1. Thank goodness Esther was kind enough not to be like other Singaporeans and complain about birds nesting near their flats. Thank you so much Esther for helping sustain these beautiful birds and sharing the photos and story with us!

  2. Wow, how cool is this! I had not seen a picture of a sunbird nest, so this is great! I dont think this species is seen where I live?

    But I see a lot of purple sunbirds – Nectarina asiatica, outside my window. The love the flowers of the Indain cork tree – millingtonia hortensis.

    Amazing pictures of the nest and the feeding. What is the nest made from?

  3. The nest is made up of dried leaves, vegetable fibres, floss… and sometimes even spiders’ silk to bind them together.

  4. Hi Esther & Micky, thanks for sharing your knowledge & pictures. I love the pic as they are captured.

    There is Sunbird nest being build at my roof terrace trellis too. This is the second time, the previous nesting was last year around the same time of the year. The last nest was on my Bamboo tree, this time round it choose my Money plant hanging down from my trellis. Whenever I could – without invading their privacy, I help them with their nest materials and shelter from wind & rain. Although this year the nest building was much tougher than last year – mainly because of the strong wind & lots of rain last month, they manage to complete the nest this week(with little help from me). They have started to abundant the nest as of yesterday. I suppose they should be back next week to lay the eggs.

    Now I need to refrain from going up to my terrace for a while as the nest is right at the door to my roof terrace. This is going to be challenging because my little daughter always wants to go up there every evening.

    1. A small sunbird family lives in our house for three generations now.
      They use secure dangly twisted wire nesting hooks especially hung from inner house ceiling.
      The birds communicate with us and we tweet tweet back to them most of the time. They fly straight through in and out from our house rooms, and they perform amazing close up hanging and flying stunts for our entertainment.

      Sometimes the chicks get to mature jump nest and to nest again. The other half of the time the chicks end up dead for some reason or other.

      1. I just moved into my new condo in Pasir Ris and on 8 Jun noticed a pair of yellow bellied sun birds flying in and out of my small planter area. I checked and am delighted to see they were busy building a nest on a hanging plant. I am so excited to see the finished project.

  5. Lovely images of sunbird nests and their young .
    I have a new sunbird family nesting in my garden too currently.

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