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BIRD WATCH: The Purple Sunbird

Sunbirds, starlings and drongos are outshining each other (and other birds) in our garden these days. Here’s a little bit about the smallest and most beautiful of these creatures… the purple sunbird!

The  purple sunbird, distinguished by the jewel-like metallic purple-blue on its back,  is one of the most visible birds around the flowering shrubs in our garden.  It is the male of the species, and has a dark purplish-black on the belly and breast with a narrow  chestnut-maroon band between breast and belly, and yellow and scarlet pectoral tufts normally hidden under the wings.   You have to really peer around to spot the female, which is a  dull green (on its mantle) and yellowish (below) with a grey face and throat.

Although like most birds sunbirds, too, work in pairs, they also like to be solitary. Tiny in size – just 10 cm. – they are reputed to be one of the most important pollinating agents in a garden.  The only time when the female becomes really visible is when she stands poised in midair for several seconds, fluttering her wings at top speed (rather like the hummingbird), while looking for the next flower-halt.  Sunbirds are able to balance themselves on stems of the tiniest of flowers, and their down-curved bills and long tubular tongues help them drink in the nectar.  Sunbirds also eat small insects and spiders.

Birdlife at Savista is abundant, stay tuned for many more sightings!

 

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