Mamma Sunbirds Wear Camo

August 30, 2019


Birds have various family structures including single parenting, monogamous families and polygamy (many females) and polyandry (many males) families. Most bird species are monogamous where the male and female share nesting and parenting responsibilities relatively equally. Usually, these bird couples look pretty much the same, since they need to spend less time and energy attracting mates and more time and energy keeping their nest safe and chicks fed. However, there are some exceptions, such as the Sunbirds (eg: Southern-Double-Collard sunbird and the Orange-breasted sunbird).

Male sunbirds have plumage that is bright and bold, this helps to attract a female, fight other males and distract predators in order to protect his territory and growing family. This is a clever way of bringing the fight to him. Female sunbirds have plumage that is full-body camo, which helps to keep her, their nest and the chicks better camouflaged from adversaries. Between the two of them, if the male is the first line of defence then the female is the last line of defence. And when and if the need arises she is the stealthy hit that comes out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly. In the meantime, while the male sunbird continues to defend the territory, the female sunbird sets about building their small oval nest from soft twigs and grass all tied together with spider webs and lined with feathers and soft plant bits. When the nest is ready she will lay their 2 eggs and incubate them. Once the chicks hatch the male sunbird will assist with feeding them insects and spiders. It’s not a meal I would enjoy, but it does help to grow strong little sunbirds who will supplement a small diet of insects with a larger diet of nectar. Now that sounds a lot tastier.

By Field Guide, Meagan Eddy