Brown-throated Sunbird – nesting

posted in: Nesting, Nests, Sunbirds | 1

“Brown-throated Sunbirds (Anthreptes malacensis malacensis) are very common in urban environments but spotting a nest has always been a bit of a challenge. I recently observed 3 nests and want to share some observations. I think the reasons the nest is less commonly observed include:

SunbirdBrTh-nest [AmarSingh] 1

“1. They build a smaller, more compact nest with hardly any ‘tail’ (above, note adult inside and swarming ants on branch). Unlike the Brown-throated Sunbirds, the Olive-backed Sunbirds (Cinnyris jugularis) nests are frequently seen as they tend to be larger, look more ‘messy’ with elongated tails.

SunbirdBrTh-nest [AmarSingh] 2

“2. Secondly the Brown-throated Sunbirds tend to build nest quite high up (above, overview on nest). Wells 2007 states that the mean nest height is 7 meters (range 2-13 meters). This first nest I am sharing is 4.5 meters up. The nests tend to be on the uppermost, outer branches of the tree.

SunbirdBrTh-nest [AmarSingh] 3

“3. They also tend to ‘hide’ the nest in an overhanging clump of leaves and it can be easily missed from some directions. Note that the nest is also anchored to some of the young stems of the compound (pinnate) leaves (above). Note that the entrance hole and classical sloping eave built to protect it. The image below shows a rear view of the nest.

SunbirdBrTh-nest [AmarSingh]

“4. Finally they tend to choose trees colonised by the Oecophylla smaragdina ants (Weaver Ant, tailor Ant, Kerengga). Wells 2007 states that in one sample 24 out of 25 nests were in such trees. Although these ants do occur in urban environments most house owners would eradicate them as the bites are painful. So I suspect the birds tend to nest on the fringe of neighbourhoods where tress are less cared for rather than in actual home gardens. What the relationship between the birds and the ants is uncertain. The ants offer some degree of protection from predators and do not seem to harm the sunbird young (Wells 2007).

“5. Only trees with leaves sufficiently large enough to be used by the Weaver Ants are the ones that will be used by the Sunbird for their nests (not aware of name of this tree).”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
15 & 18th May 2016

Location: Ipoh City, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Urban environment

  1. EK

    Dear Amar,

    This is EK.
    Thank you for the above detailed information. It is very useful and beneficial for my current observations of a pair of Brown-throated Sunbirds on the top of canopy where the nest is about 23m tall and very well concealed, full of ants etc, but yet to identify the tree. Nesting started 31 July 2022 and today is Day 4.
    I also noticed that the Male will visit the nest in the early morning and towards the late evening, in between, its the Female that seems to be collecting the nesting material and building the nest. Also, whenever the Female is near or at the nest, the Male will vocalize loudly.
    Nidification is progressing positively and the nest is beginning to look like those pictures that you have taken.


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