Male Olive-backed Sunbird attacking female

posted in: Intraspecific, Sunbirds | 5

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.

5 Responses

  1. Tou Jing Yi

    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. Amar-Singh HSS (Dato Dr)

    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. Angela

    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. Vince

    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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