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Sunbird

Sunbird
life expectancy:7 years
distribution:Africa, Asia
family:Nectariniidae
dimensions:10 to 15 cm
compatibility: agressivesinging ability: not very melodiousloudiness: quiet
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History [ edit ]

Sunbirds are softbill birds that feed mainly of nectar that they extract from flowers. These are high maintenance birds not advisable for inexperienced breeders. Sunbirds are the Old Wold counterparts of hummingbirds, however they lack the ability to hover while feeding and need to be perching to suck the nectar of the flowers. Their natural habitat is forests and brushes of Africa, Asia, and South Pacific. They aren´t migrant birds but they change their feeding area within a small territory from time to time.
editing: History [ close ]
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Housing [ edit ]

These birds are relatively hardy; nevertheless, they need heating in winter time. Generally speaking, all softbill birds need heating, specially the smaller ones, like sunbirds, because their small bodies offer less resistance to the low temperatures. It is advisable to keep them in a indoor aviary during this period of time. In the summer they can return outside.

Lighting during the winter is also required to extend the feeding period and because in the wild, these birds are used to have days with long hours of sun. This is especially important in countries that see dramatic changes throughout the winter in the length of the day.

Sunbirds prefer planted aviaries. They also like a bath tub for baths, which they will use everyday without exception. 
editing: Housing [ close ]
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Diet [ edit ]

Sunbirds are nectivores, which means they feed primarily on the flowers´ nectar. Asian sunbirds may be more insectivores than the others. However, their diets should have nectar and small insects. Diced fruit makes a good treat. 
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Temperament [ edit ]

Sunbirds are gregarious, living in flocks most of the time. However, during matting season, cocks tend to be more aggressive, so the best is to keep them in pairs during this period.

The males of this kind use their bright colours to attract the females for breeding purposes.  
editing: Temperament [ close ]
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General appearance [ edit ]

The real appeal of these birds is their plumage. Iridescent feathers are a feast to our eyes, but this can only be observed in the male sunbird and only during breeding season. So sexing sunbirds is quite easy, the hen has duller plumage throughout the year and the male is more brightly coloured, especially during breeding season. Strangely, the difficult thing to do is to distinguish hens of different species, since they all have rather dull plumage in brownish, greyish and yellowish shades. Young birds are similar to females but have shorter bills.

Sunbirds have long and narrow bills, slightly bended on the tip, which are great tools for nectar extraction. The tongue is longer than the pointy bill.

The colour of the sunbird varies according to the specie and there are many combinations of many colours. From black to white, green, red, blue, etc.  
editing: General appearance [ close ]
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Health [ edit ]

Special attention must be paid to the hygiene of these birds. Being nectivores they are quite messy and this kind of diet tends to trigger more rapidly then other diets fungal infections like candidiasis.
editing: Health [ close ]
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Species [ edit ]

There are proximally 100 species of sunbirds. The most common are:

  • Variable Sunbird (Cinnyris venusta) - One of the most popular species, the Variable Sunbird is native from Africa. This bird has 10 cm in length. Male sunbirds have glossy green plumage on the head and wings, with a blue bar on the chest area. The belly has duller shades of grey. The female has a brownish tonality, lighter on the belly and darker on the back. Males outside breeding season have duller colours as well, but the touch of green remains.
  • Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiatica) – This sunbird is among the species in this group that appreciates insects the most. This Asian sunbird has a purple tonality that gives him its name. In full colour, males have glossy purple on the head and back. Out of the breeding season, the male has a blue shade on the chest area and is mainly brownish, darker on the back and lighter on the belly.
  • Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa) – This African sunbird is one of the largest birds of this group, essentially due to the cocks´ tail length. Malachite males have two long central feathers in the tail that can have almost half of his total size. When they are out of colour, sexing can be made through this trait. During breeding season, males have lustrous green plumage, lighter on the head, chest and back. The plumage turns olive-green and yellow to grey in the underpants when the breeding season is over. The female is brownish.
  • Scarlet-chested Sunbird (Chalcomitra senegalensis) – This is one of the easiest species of sunbird to keep, and strangely enough there not as popular as it´s relatives. The male has a sleek black plumage with a scarlet patch in the chest area. Out of colour, the plumage gets duller, resembling the brownish hen. Among the sunbird family, the Scarlet-chested is actually one of the easiest to care for in an aviary and to breed. 
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