Bird Photography Challenge #26: Yellow-Bellied Sunbird

One of the delights we had while walking on Great Keppel Island in Queensland during our recent winter cruise was to discover the Yellow-Bellied Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis), also known as Olive-Backed Sunbird. This bright little bird with a distinctively down-curved bill and striking colours was a first sighting for us and it takes pride of place as our #26 Bird Photography Challenge. Even more amazing was stumbling across its suspended nest hanging from the twigs of a tree along our walking track. This is a doubly special post, since as the number suggests, we have been publishing our fortnightly bird features for 12 months and our first sighting of this showy bird happened on my birthday!

What does it look like?

Male sunbird

Male sunbird

The Yellow-Bellied Sunbird is a striking nectar eating bird with a down-curved black bill. It is a beautiful song bird. At 12cm in length, it is a small bird with short wings and it flies swiftly with a direct flight. The male Sunbird has a yellowish-olive head with a yellow line above the eye, like an eyebrow. The upper parts are also olive, except for the tail which is black with a white tip. An irridescent dark blue, nearly purple gorget extends from the area around the bill, to the chin to the upper breast. The rest of the underparts are bright yellow and the legs dark grey. The female looks similar but does not have the gorget. Her underparts are entirely yellow.

How does it behave?

Female Sunbird on the nest

Female Sunbird on the nest

The Yellow-Bellied Sunbird forages amongst the foliage and flowers of trees and shrubs. It probes flowers with its long bill to take nectar, and small invertebrates. It sometimes snacks on the occasional insect too. Although able to hover for a short time, it prefers to cling to a stem as it sips nectar or plucks insects out of spiders’ webs.

It builds a long, spindle shaped nest that is suspended from a branch via a long cord made of entwined grass, fibres and bark bound by spider webs.

The nest has an overhanging porch at the entrance and a trail of hanging material at the bottom, as shown in the photo.

Beautiful and cosy nest building is the work of the female, as is the incubation of the eggs. Tending to the young is a joint activity.

Did you know?

This resourceful bird often suspends its elaborate nest near water sources and in tree canopies or even near human habitation like porches or verandah. This is thought to be added protection against predators who typically stay away from human activity. The nest we photographed was just on the edge of a track. There was no egg in it, and it felt incredibly light.

Where is it found?

Found in South East Asia and the coastal areas of North and Central Queensland in Australia, this Sunbird favours woodlands and the margins of mangroves and rainforests where nectar bearing plants are plentiful.

The photos were taken during a walk on Great Keppel Island, Queensland, using a Canon 7Dii and Canon 100-400 lens, supported by a Gitzo monopod for extra steadiness.  Click on the first image to display the gallery in full screen slide show.

8 thoughts on “Bird Photography Challenge #26: Yellow-Bellied Sunbird

  1. Brilliant colours& great story of the birds life, another birthday to remember,thank you MR T

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