Olive-backed Sunbird stealing nectar from Musa ornata

on 3rd December 2016

I made an earlier post of a male Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis) sipping nectar from flowers of Wild Banana (Musa ornata). Unfortunately the view was not the best. I was unable to fully document the activities of the sunbird.

SunbirdOB-m steal nectar-M ornata [wyc]

A subsequent video documentation reveals what actually happened (video below). A male and a female Olive-backed Sunbirds, instead of probing the flowers from above and in the process help transfer pollen from one flower to another, took short cuts. They pierced the base of the flowers with their sharp bill to get access at the nectar.

Another video taken closer to the banana inflorescence (below) shows the older flowers dotted with scars of earlier piercings. The male sunbird instead of piercing the flowers, made use of the older openings to access the nectar at the base of the flowers. The openings also allow ants to get directly at the nectar.

I would assume that the bills of sunbirds are a little too short to comfortably reach the nectar from the top of the flowers. Thus they indulge in robbing the flowers of the nectar from below.

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter (Arachnothera modesta modesta), with its much longer bill, has no problem obtaining nectar from the Wild Banana from the top of the flowers. Obviously spiderhunters are much efficient pollinators that sunbirds, as shown HERE.

YC Wee
21st October 2016

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.

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