While I love this blog, I now pretty much only write on my other two blogs: BirdingBlogs.com and 10,000 Birds - I would love to see you there!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Olive Sunbird and Grey Sunbird digiscoped

Sunbirds are these crazy crazy creatures that spend their lives flying about behind a ridiculously long decurved bill. I suppose they are what results when a songbird decides it wants to look like a curlew or whimbrel (only prettier).

One of the birds that I really loved as a young birdwatcher and ringer was the Eastern Olive Sunbird (Nectarinia olivacea aka Cyanomitra olivacea; Olivnektarvogel). I know it as a coastal or scarp forest bird species, typically liking open sunny forest clearings, and drifting in to gardens and wandering up and down riparian forest watercourses.

As sunbirds go, the Olive Sunbird is rather drab, sporting matt green plumage. But it is when the males get excited that they start to stand out. They have these little bushels of bright yellow feathers that they poke out of their shoulders in territorial disputes or when a predator - like the African Goshawk - is about.

Olive sunbird in a Common Coral Tree aka Lucky Bean Tree (Erythrina lysistemon) digiscoped using Swarovski Optik STM80HD spotting scope, 25-50x zoom eyepiece, Swarovski UCA digiscoping adapter, Canon's baby DSLR the 1000D.

But the absolute bestest thing about the Olive Sunbird is its call (play xeno canto recording by Patrik Åberg here). It might not be the most incredible call, but this is what my home forests sound like to me. It is like drinking from a fountain of joy and youth to hear it whistling away in the forest.

A closely related and equally non-flamboyant sunbird species is the Grey Sunbird (Nektarinia veroxii aka Cyanomitra veroxii aka Mouse-coloured Sunbird; Graunektarvogel). The grey sunbird lives in much the same habitat and has a similar southern African distribution to the Eastern Olive Sunbird, although I generally found it somewhat less common. However, it could well be that the grey sunbird just does not sing as much as the olive sunbird, but this is just speculation on my part.

While the Olive Sunbird has the bright yellow "I'm all excited" flashlights, the Grey Sunbird has bright red shoulder tufts which it flaunts in the face of competition. But it seems less likely to show these off than the olive sunbirds.

peeky boo said the grey sunbird

Despite having those ridiculously long bills, sunbirds actually get a whole lot of their dietary requirements from insects; caught mainly on the wing. The flowers give the sugars and fast-energy fuel; while the insects provide the necessary proteins and long-term support for reproduction and body maintenance.

Sunbird really are lovely, I should post a few more photos of them...

Happy birding,
Dale Forbes


Johnny Nutcase said...

What a great bird -Love the orange blooms with him. Nice photos and good info, too!

Müge said...

Very beautiful digiscoped shots! A new technology for me. I've listened to the Olive Sunbird's call, it was wonderful as you described.

Chris said...

Wow I'm amazed bu the quality of your digis-pictures sometime. These are simply wonderful and the bird is not that easy to get, was it?
Awesome psot as usual!

Kelly said...

....love that bill! I listened to the song....it is so unique to my ears and very pretty too. Your description is perfect! (I just got a Swarovski spotting scope and am looking forward to learning how to digiscope. I think it will be a very long time before I can capture digiscoped images as nice as yours though!)

Anuradha Shankar said...

great pics..... but just one question - i have a pic of a sunbird taken from my home... i thought it was the female of a purple rumped sunbird..... but from ur pics, it resembles an olvie sunbird... could u see the pic at the link below and let me know which one it is???


Dale Forbes said...

@Johnny - those wonderful red flowers develop in to a string of bright scarlet seeds in a pea-pod like string. we called these lucky beans as kids.

@Müge - it was great to look through some of your wonderful images from Costa Rica, a land very close to my heart.

@Chris - thank you for the compliment. coming from you it means a great deal. although I was not too happy with these results, I consoled myself with the fact that these are incredibly fast flying little birds that never sit still for more than a few seconds so digiscoping them involved loads of quick action and understanding their behaviour.

@Kelly - the crazy bill is what makes these birds. I hope you have lots of fun getting in to digiscoping. our new digiscoping website should be a great help in that regard: www.swarovskioptik.com/en/digiscoping

@Anu - I have never seen a purple rumped sunbird (I have yet to make it to India), but the bird in your photo does look like a purple rumped to me. that, and you have a photo of a male purple rumped here http://picasaweb.google.co.in/pics.anu/CheddaNagar#5350833172558888338

eileeninmd said...

Wonderful shots, love both of the sunbirds.

Lana Gramlich said...

Very lovely, particularly among the blooms. Thanks for sharing!

Larry said...

Very cool birds Dale and excellent shots as always. I really enjoyed the audio of the call as well. Beautiful.

JRandSue said...

Just amazing,like yourself I'm also a digiscoper and enjoy every shot.
Look forward to the Day when i can produce Images has good as yours.

Kyle said...

Great shots, Dale. That first one is especially good! The Grey Sunbird seems a little more shy than the olive, trying to stay just out of sight while checking you out through the petals of the flowers.

瑪利亞 said...
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Dale Forbes said...

Dear Eileen, Lana, Larry, John and Kyle:
thank you for your comments. I am sure you can imagine it is waaay more fun spending time with these great creatures than just looking at photos of them. If you ever get the chance, you just have to go to northeastern south africa and spend some time in the coastal forests there!

Vickie said...

Your enthusiasm is fun to read. What a odd combination, like a hummingbird/songbird cross. Love both the bill and that song. What a treat for your ears.

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