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My Sunbirds In Bangkok

Updated on September 19, 2014

Olive-backed Sunbirds In Bangkok

Olive-backed Sunbirds are common in Thailand, even in Bangkok where I live. I am often amazed that these beautiful little birds manage to thrive in such a polluted, busy, urban area but thrive they do and a pair frequently visit the few plants that I have in my yard and balcony.


It is really interesting to watch these little sunbirds visiting flowering plants to drink the nectar and forage for insects - they are a real jewel in a concrete jungle.


The Olive-backed Sunbirds that visit our house have not only entertained me and my wife but have captured the attentions of family and neighbors. Hopefully in this lens I can pass on some of my enthusiasm for these beautiful little creatures to the readers; they are one of my favorite birds.

Olive-backed Sunbird photo by Alex Vargas

Have You Ever Seen A Sunbird? Please Let Us Know Here

Male Olive-backed Sunbird by Alex Vargas
Male Olive-backed Sunbird by Alex Vargas

Have you ever seen an Olive-backed Sunbird?

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Watch An Olive-backed Sunbird Feeding On A Flower

Before I say anything more about Olive-backed Sunbirds take a few moments to watch this great little video clip of a male feeding on a flower; you can learn a little about its behavior in this video clip and see what a colorful little character it is. This video clip shows the lovely plumage of the male very clearly.

Learn About All Of The Sunbird Species In The World

Sunbirds: A Guide to the Sunbirds, Spiderhunters, Sugarbirds and Flowerpeckers of the World
Sunbirds: A Guide to the Sunbirds, Spiderhunters, Sugarbirds and Flowerpeckers of the World

This superb book contains absolutely everything you could want to know about all the world's sunbirds. This book about sunbirds is part of the excellent Helm series, which I can reliably inform, are the best bird books to be published.

 
Olive-backed Sunbird - Peel and Stick Wall Decal
Olive-backed Sunbird - Peel and Stick Wall Decal

The Feeding And Foraging Behavior Of Olive-backed Sunbirds

A Little Bit of Ornithology

Olive-backed Sunbirds are fun to watch whilst feeding. In fact I often watch them feeding whilst I am feeding since they frequently come down to forage whilst I am having my breakfast in the morning - in a way they are my breakfast companions!

Olive-backed Sunbirds have two different feeding strategies:

1. Nectar Drinking - It is obvious from the photos that the Olive-backed Sunbird has a special bill, this is for drinking nectar. However, it often does not insert its bill into a flower's aperture to get nectar (although it often will), therefore assisting in the pollenation of the flower, but instead pierces the base of the flower, "stealing" the nectar. A neat little trick!

Olive-backed Sunbirds usually perform this trick whilst perched, although they sometimes hover in the fashion of a hummingbird as the one in the photo here is doing.

They will also drink from nectar feeders designed for hummingbirds: hummingbird nectar feeders.

2. Insect Gleaning - This species is rather partial to small insects and other tiny invertebrates, something which should please the local gardeners. Rather than picking insects from leaves or pecking at them, the sunbird "gleans" the insects with a sort of sideswipe action with the bill across leaves and petals. Occasionally this species will make a special effort to chase an invertebrate and I have even seen them chasing insects around in mid air.

Use This Feeder to Attract Sunbirds

Perky-Pet Pinch-Waist Glass Hummingbird Feeder 203CP (8oz)
Perky-Pet Pinch-Waist Glass Hummingbird Feeder 203CP (8oz)

Just fill this little feeder up with nectar or sugar solution and hang it in an attractive spot to feed sunbirds if you live in Asia. If you are in North or South America it will serve hummingbirds. Birds will come to feed at the four feeding ports that are designed to look like flowers.

 

Here Are The Plants In Our Yard That Attract The Sunbirds

Something that is a constant surprise to me is how small a patch of vegetation is needed to attract Olive-backed Sunbirds in Bangkok, in fact there are quite some number of species that are able to survive in this concrete jungle.

At our house we only have a tiny patch of habitat available for these birds in our yard and balcony, but they still come every day to have a feed on whichever flowers are blooming at the time. In this photo you can see the small collection of plants that attracts the sunbirds.

These plants are watered daily so that they are healthy and bloom quite frequently and they are also not treated with any type of insecticide meaning that insects are abundant and the sunbirds come down to eat these too; in this way the birds act as a natural bio-control. In fact birds are great at controlling insect and other invertebrate populations and when you eliminate slugs, snails, insects and other creepy crawlies from your yard you also help to eliminate birds too; many species are scarce or close to extinction now because of the use of pesticides in gardens, but not in our yard!

Their Favorite Flowers - The Sunbirds Seem To Love These

In particular, in our yard, the sunbirds seem to enjoy feeding from these flowers pictured above. As you can see they are tiny, clustered flowerettes, with no apparent opening for a bird or insect to get into the nectar chamber. This highlights the Olive-backed Sunbirds flower piercing ability and role as a "nectar thief".

Of course it is not just my plants they feast on but all the neighbors' too who have similar collections of plants in their yards and on their balconies - these are community sunbirds! In fact when you put together all the plants in similar yards along our street, it becomes obvious that these little birds have quite a territory even in what at first appears to be a wildlife free zone.

Extract from The Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson
Extract from The Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson

Olive-backed Sunbirds' Range In Thailand - They Are Everywhere!

This species is a remarkably ecologically tolerant bird being able to adapt to living in Bangkok it would have to be. Its natural habitat is forest and mangroves but it has managed to adapt to live in virtually all habitats including monocultural palm oil and rubber plantations, cities, gardens and all sorts of cultivation with scattered trees.

It is funny, actually, that when you are out bird watching in Thailand you are far more likely to see this species of sunbird in a park or garden than you are in its natural habitat; spend some time in one of the parks in Bangkok and you can see this species quite easily.

The distribution map from this extract you can see pictured here from Craig Robson's A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand helps to illustrate my point.

Some More Olive-backed Sunbird Video Clips To Watch

Now that you know a little more about these charming birds you can choose a few more of these video clips to watch and get a better idea of how they behave; there is nothing like seeing a bird in action to really get an idea of its character, often photos do not do birds justice.

The abundance of Olive-backed Sunbird video clips on YouTube highlights how this lovely little species brightens up many people's lives and how common it is throughout much of Asia, not just Thailand.

Enjoy watching their cheeky behavior of these garden birds in a few of these videos.

Please Let Us Know What You Think Of Olive-backed Sunbirds Now

Olive-backed Sunbird by Alex Vargas
Olive-backed Sunbird by Alex Vargas

What is your impression of Olive-backed Sunbirds after reading this lens?

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Sibley's Birding Basics - A Useful Book For Improving Your Skills

Sibley's Birding Basics: How to Identify Birds, Using the Clues in Feathers, Habitats, Behaviors, and Sounds
Sibley's Birding Basics: How to Identify Birds, Using the Clues in Feathers, Habitats, Behaviors, and Sounds

This really informative guide will teach you how to get the most out of your hobby and how to identify the birds you see either in the garden or out on birding trips. This is a highly rated book for beginners but even experienced birders will be able to learn from this publication from one of America's foremost ornithologists.

 

Some Of My Photographs Of Other Birds From Thailand

I am lucky enough to be able to lead bird watching tours around Thailand which gives me plenty of opportunity to see many species on a regular basis. Sometimes these tours focus on photography which then gives me the chance to get some shots of some of the colorful birds that we see. I use just a compact digital camera but such is the quality of these gadgets these days that I am able to get quite a lot of good pictures; here are just a few of them.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Hill Blue FlycatcherWhite-tailed RobinLittle Ringed PloverLarge-tailed NightjarRacket-tailed TreepieKentish PloverGreat EgretBlack-naped MonarchNarcissus FlycatcherBlack-collared Starling
Hill Blue Flycatcher
Hill Blue Flycatcher
White-tailed Robin
White-tailed Robin
Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Large-tailed Nightjar
Large-tailed Nightjar
Racket-tailed Treepie
Racket-tailed Treepie
Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover
Great Egret
Great Egret
Black-naped Monarch
Black-naped Monarch
Narcissus Flycatcher
Narcissus Flycatcher
Black-collared Starling
Black-collared Starling

Please Leave Your Comments About This Lens Here - I Hope You Enjoyed Reading

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    • FlynntheCat1 profile image

      FlynntheCat1 7 years ago

      Blessed and lensrolled on my Tui lens - another Honeyeater! :D

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 7 years ago

      Lovely birds indeed. Are they hummingbirds or just similar?

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I love your lenses! I also love the olive-backed sunbirds - we have them up north in Australia too. .

    • nickupton lm profile image
      Author

      nickupton lm 7 years ago

      Similar. A case of convergent evolution; hummingbirds in the New World, sunbirds in the Old World.[in reply to spirituality]

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      What adorable birds - and another great lens. I've never seen a sunbird so it was good to be able to watch a couple of the videos you posted.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

      Thank you for virtually bringing the olive backed sunbirds into my home. They are lovely.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Lovely birds. Lovely lens

    • nickupton lm profile image
      Author

      nickupton lm 7 years ago

      @SusannaDuffy: They were back on my balcony today, drinking nectar from some yellow flowers.

    • LadyFlashman profile image

      LadyFlashman 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      These look like such sweet characterful birds! lovely lens!

    • profile image

      ShamanicShift 6 years ago

      Awesome, beautiful and educational lens! I have featured it in the bird section at Nature-Lenses.

    • JeanJohnson LM profile image

      JeanJohnson LM 5 years ago

      I've never heard of the olive-backed sunbird, but they are beautiful!

    • profile image

      Ruthi 5 years ago

      Your enthusiasm for your birdwatching is contagious. I felt like a neighbor sharing our community sunbirds. Lovely, thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have a sunbird building a nest on my washing line on the balcony of my apartment on Sukhumvit road. What can I do to help and encourage it?

    • nickupton lm profile image
      Author

      nickupton lm 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Don't disturb the washing line and if you have any plants do not use pesticides on them - the birds will eat the insects.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I saw an Olive Back sunbird today and thought it was a hummingbird. Evidently not. Thanks for the info

    • profile image

      terry 2 years ago

      Got a pair nesting at the moment on one of my orchids they have 4 eggs.

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