Brown-throated Sunbird dealing with Costus spicatus flower

posted in: Feeding-plants, Sunbirds | 3

An earlier post showed what appeared to be a Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) manipulating a flower of the Indian Head Ginger (Costus spicatus) to get at its nectar LINK.

Johnny Wee has now provided a series of images of another Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) manipulating a flower of the Indian Head Ginger photographed at Singapore’s Garden by the Bay in mid-January 2014. These images provide a clearer picture of what actually happened when the sunbird visited the flower for nectar.

This ginger plant is a popular ornamental plant grown in gardens. The inflorescence is a cone covered with densely overlapping, bright red bracts. The yellow to orange flowers appear one at a time. The three petals are fused halfway to the base.

Landing on the top of the inflorescence, the Brown-throated Sunbird used its right foot to grab a petal and pulled it inwards, thereby prying open the flower (top, above).

Once the flowers had been torn open, the sunbird dipped its bill into it so that its tongue can have access to the nectar (below).

Johnny Wee
January 2014


3 Responses

  1. […] The two recent posts of Costus spicatus (Indian Head Ginger) showing an interesting feeding behaviour of the Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) led me to take a closer look at the plant and its flowering biology LINK 1 and LINK 2. […]

  2. […] Wee subsequently provided more images of nectar harvesting by the same species of sunbird LINK. The images clearly show that the bird uses its foot to pry open the flower. But then there is also […]

  3. […] Note that in Johnny Wee’s images (above), the Brown-throated Sunbird uses its foot to pull part of the flower towards the flowering head. This effectively forces the flower to open up, after which the sunbird uses its mandibles to keep the flower parts separate. It then pushes its head down for the tongue to harvest the nectar LINK. […]


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