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Male Olive-backed Sunbird attacking female

on 29th April 2012

Angela Wong Foong Lin sent in her encounter with a male Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis) on 13th April 2012.

“I witnessed a male Olive-backed Sunbird attacking a female in the terrace outside my office today,” wrote Angela (left).

“He chased her around the terrace ceiling for a long time, dashing into the wall and glass windows a few times (I could hear the thud when they hit the surfaces). Then he chased her to the ground, pinned her down and pecked at her repeatedly. During one of the three incidents I saw, I walked out into the terrace because I heard loud calls and found them on the ground just outside the glass door, in the corner. He flew off when he saw me but she crouched there for a good few minutes. Then she flew up but was disoriented and unsteady. She is still out there on the other side of the terrace perched on one of the ceiling bars. Still looking lost. Don’t know why she does not want to fly away.

“Hope he does not come back and attack her again. Rape? Wife bashing? Even in the bird world? So sad.

“Wonder if it is a territorial issue. When I went back to the terrace to look again, the female bird was still sitting up there on the ceiling bars, watching. When she saw me, she flew around nervously and kind of in a disoriented fashion. But I did not see the male bird again. Wonder if it will come back again during the weekend.”

Note: This seems to be a strange behaviour for the sunbird. Would appreciate if someone can help explain the behaviour.

We thank Amy Sobrielo for directing Angela to BESG with her encounter. Image by YC.

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. Some birds have these sort of “fore-play” as part of the courtship, to “fight” around with the mate, probably as an assessment to the “strength” of their potential mates on top of “looks” itself. Saw sparrows doing that before as well.

  2. I have watched courting behaviour a number of times in this species but never so violent as describe. Suggest we also consider alternative options of territorial feeding infringement & protection of a nest/nesting site. The reason she did not fly away was possibly a cerebral concussion & disorientated.

  3. Thank you all for your comments and the food for thought. I really can’t believe that mating can be so violent! It maybe territorial, but maybe not related to feeding infringement as there is no food around the terrace. Also, no nesting going on either. Thank you for explaining the dazed behaviour of the female. When I returned on Monday after the weekend, birds were nowhere to be seen and all has been quiet since.

  4. I saw this exact same thing this morning! The only difference being it was a pair fighting another pair, in particular against a female who is nesting with chicks. The nest is on our back porch, and we watch them all the time… I was shocked to see how aggressively they were fighting, and at one point I actually separated them all as they were a fighting tangled mess on the ground. To me it seems to be all over territory, but its staggering how aggressive these beautiful little birds can get 🙁 The nesting female is also now having a lot of trouble going back to her nest without being intercepted by the rival pair…I fear it wont end well.

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