(This article originally appeared in the BirdLife Plettenberg Bay newsletter in December 2014 and is posted with the permission of the Editor. -Ed.)
Five Sunbirds at our house – Mike Bridgeford
There are seven sunbirds recorded in our region of the Greater Plettenberg Bay to date.
They are – Malachite; Orange-breasted; Greater Double-collared; Southern Double-collared; Amythest; Collared; and Grey.
The Collared and Grey Sunbirds are relatively new birds to our area and have only been identified as being in the region in the last two years or so. Previously they have only been recorded above Port Elizabeth in the coastal areas. This is typical of the general migration of some bird species, where their ranges have extended south and west. The next Sunbird we should be looking out for would be the Olive Sunbird.
These five Sunbirds were all in my garden at the same time, and were photographed on the same day. The Greater Double-collared Sunbird is a male bird, and displaying its yellow epaulettes. This display is not always evident and very rewarding to see! The Southern Double-collared bird is also a male, but it did not display its yellow epaulettes. The Amethyst Sunbird is a male, and it does not have displaying epaulettes at all. At the feeder this is the most aggressive bird and is always chasing the other birds away.
The Amethyst Sunbird used to be called the Black Sunbird, as it appears to be Black in colour when viewed in normal light. However, it is actually a deep brown colour when seen in the clear light of a photograph, with incredible colours on its head; shoulders and throat areas, seen only where the light highlights those areas. The female of course is a totally different colour. Good name change!
The Collared Sunbird shown in the photograph is a male bird. The female bird does not have the band across the chest. This is a very small Sunbird, but very active at the feeder. This bird shows no epaulettes at all.
The Grey Sunbird is quite hard to distinguish from the female Greater Double Sunbird. However, the bird has a green wash to the back and a plain off-white chest and belly. The bird also has red epaulettes, and these can just be seen in the photograph. However, like the other displaying Sunbirds, this does not happen too often. The female is identical to the male.
It is really very special to have seven Sunbirds in our area, and to be able to get five of them at the same time at my sugar water feeders.