Hummingbird Hawk Moth, Hummingbird and Sunbird

on 19th September 2015

Richard White documented a Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum sp.) harvesting nectar at the Singapore Botanic Gardens around August 2015. The hawk moth’s feeding behavior reminded him of a hummingbird hovering in front of flowers to harvest their nectar. In both cases they excrete excess water from from their liquid diet while hovering. Richard further brought up the question of whether nectar-feeding sunbirds excrete excess water.

We do not have hummingbirds in this part of the world. Instead we have the Old World’s equivalent – sunbirds. Sunbirds also feed on nectar, sometimes even hovering in front of flowers to get at it.

Both hummingbirds and sunbirds take in large amounts of nectar. And as their diet consists mainly of liquid food, both need to get rid of excess water, thus defecating frequently. However, whereas hummingbirds absorb all the ingested water, sunbirds do not. Again, while the kidneys of hummingbirds do not have the ability to concentrate urine, those of sunbirds do. Thus hummingbirds, like the Hummingbird Hawk Moth, need to eject excess water regularly. Not so in the case of sunbirds – see HERE

Richard White
September 2015

This post is a cooperative effort between Birds, Insects N Creatures Of Asia and BESG to bring the study of birds and their behavior through photography and videography 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

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