Copper-throated Sunbird – song and calls

on 5th December 2021

The song and calls of the Copper-throated Sunbirds (Leptocoma calcostetha) are not well described. Wells (2007) says “A disyllable somewhat like the Brown-throated Sunbird, but no more detail available, and songs undescribed”. Cheke & Mann (2001) state “A deep trill, more melodious and less descending than the Yellow-bellied Prinia…”. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (2020) summarises both records and says “Utters both a high trill, and a deep melodious trill; also, a disyllabic call resembling that of Anthreptes malacensis”.

I made 9 call and song recordings of a number of birds over a 4+ hour period.

The calls/songs made by males include:

  1. A single, sharp, high frequency (20-21 kHz), brief (0.1-0.15 seconds) call, This call is almost not perceptible to me due to age related high tone hearing loss; hence may be missed by bird watchers. This is the commonest call made by adult males and also used territorially and in flight. It is used repeatedly 1-4 seconds apart for some time. Below is the sonogram and waveform of this call.

  1. The less common call heard was the one referred to as a ‘disyllabic call’ in literature. To my ears this is a single note call, lasting 0.3 seconds and is sort of a ‘pleading’ call (16-17 kHz). It does resemble the call used by the Brown-throated Sunbird. It was made 2-4 seconds apart, at rest, with a female in attendance. Below contains the sonogram and waveform of this call.

3. The third call is what I would consider the bird’s song. It was made not infrequently both at rest as well as when moving about (below). The song lasts 1.5-2 seconds and is a high frequency (20-21 kHz), has 9-14 notes sung rapidly. I presume this is the one referred to as a ‘trill’. Below are the sonogram and waveform of this call.

  1. The final song/call was heard infrequently and is a drawn-out chatter of numerous notes uttered in 4-5 seconds of varying frequencies. Below show the sonogram and waveform of this call.

Calls/song described in the above three can be heard in this recording:

Calls described in the last is found at the end of this recording. The earlier part has the first call:


  1. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 (Passerines). Christopher Helm, London.
  2. Robert A Cheke, Clive F Mann, Richard Allen (2001). Sunbirds: A Guide to the Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers, Spiderhunters and Sugarbirds of the World. Helm Identification Guides
  3. Cheke, R. & Mann, C. (2020). Ruby-cheeked Sunbird (Chalcoparia singalensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia


Location: Bagan Datuk, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Mangrove forest

Date: 10th September 2020

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone



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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