Crimson Sunbird hovering to harvest nectar

on 3rd March 2010

Sunbirds often perch on a nearby branch while inserting its long bill into a flower to harvest nectar. Sometimes, the base of the flower is pierced, in which case the bird is termed a nectar thief, as it does not assist in pollination in the process.

A third method of harvesting nectar is hovering, often associated with hummingbirds. Hovering is flight without horizontal or vertical movement and it involves extra energy on the part of the bird. Hovering becomes necessary when there is no convenient perch nearby. The sunbird may also hover when searching for insects. Although not well known, many species of sunbirds hover when foraging.

Harprit Singh’s image of a Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja) hovering while trying to harvest nectar is more common than most birdwatchers are aware of. The plant looks like the water canna (Thalia sp.).

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

5 Responses

  1. The plant is Thalia dealbata, a more recent introduction to Singapore horticulture than the other Thalia species, such as Thalia genticulata, which have been planted here for a longer time.

    Thalia dealbata is easy to grow and is very attractive to sunbirds. They visit the plants in my garden ponds all the time.

    Just stick a cutting into an empty orchid pot, prop it up with some rocks, and leave it in a pond or urn. It will survive, and it will do better if there is lots of fish waste or other fertilizer. Trouble is, Thalia can get somewhat unkempt. And being attractive to sunbirds, it also attracts insect pests.

    If you keep fish and frogs, as I do, you cannot use insecticides and have to cut off the affected parts manually.

  2. I love bird watching ecpext minus the patience which I once had during the kampong days. In those days, my favourite bird to watch was the fishing pond kingfisher, a bird with a sharp beak – quite lengthy, and had a gloss of blue-black-white feathers. Its size was slightly smaller to the red bird perching on chun see’s window railing. The characteristic of this kingfisher was that it could stand very still on a branch of a small plant overing hanging the pond. It had great patience and stillness and when small fishes appeared on the water surface, it would swoop down quickly to pick up its victim very neatly off the water. The attractive red bird surveying chun see room was apparently a curious one being distracted by a certain object inside the room and could have wondered whether it was eatable or not.

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