Sunbirds and Spiderhunters
If you like Hummingbirds you will also enjoy Sunbirds and Spriderhunters.
145 species in 16 genera.
While in northern Tanzania, Arusha, we went looking for Sunbirds. At the bottom of the Ngorongoro Crater, our Toyota was roughing through a trail that was between patches of colorful flowers. Dominant in the patches was the mint Leonotis nepetifolia (lion’s ear), an attractant for sunbirds.
The sunbirds and spiderhunters make a family, Nectariniidae, of passerine birds. They are small, slender passerines from the Old World, usually with downward-curved bills. Many are brightly colored, often with iridescent feathers, particularly in the males. Many species also have especially long tail feathers.
Range Their range extends through most of Africa to the Middle East, South Asia, South-east Asia and southern China, to Indonesia, New Guinea and northern Australia. Species diversity is highest in equatorial regions.
Diet Most sunbirds feed largely on nectar, but will also eat insects and spiders, especially when feeding their young. Flowers that prevent access to their nectar because of their shape (for example, very long and narrow flowers) are simply punctured at the base near the nectaries, from which the birds sip the nectar. Fruit is also part of the diet of some species.
Flight Their flight is fast and direct, thanks to their short wings. Some sunbird species can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, but they usually perch to feed.
Related The sunbirds have counterparts in two very distantly related groups: the hummingbirds of the Americas and the honeyeaters of Australia. The resemblances are due to convergent evolution brought about by a similar nectar-feeding lifestyle.