Watch a Sunbird @ Your garden

I've been a avid bird watcher since I was in my early teens. And before some of your not so clean minds take over I do mean the feathered variety, although as I got older I do have to admit the non-feathered variety also got watched quite a bit.

But back to the point, being a avid bird watcher the most common question I get asked is 'I saw a tiny bird in my garden today, I thought it was a butterfly, then I noticed it was a bird that hoovered. Was it a hummingbird?'.

Unfortunately, the answer is no, it wasn't a hummingbird, they are a New World species and are restricted to the Americas from southern Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, including the Caribbean, so you have no hope of seeing them in Thailand.

The bird is in fact a Sunbird, a very similar bird to a hummingbird, the resemblances being due to convergent evolution brought about by a similar nectar-feeding lifestyle

The most common Sunbird species found in and around Korat are the Olive-backed, the Purple, the Black-throated, the Crimson, the Purple-throated and the Ruby-cheeked, although numerous other species occur in Thailand. Check out the pictures on the right to tell them apart, the pics are in the order listed in the previous sentence.

They are most commonly seen hovering by flower heads collecting nectar in exactly the same way as hummingbirds do. But they are a little less agile then their American cousins although taking nectar by hovering, they usually perch to feed. Both genus have long thin down-curved bills and brush-tipped tubular tongues, both adaptations to their nectar feeding.

In terms of rarity, the family has fared better than many others, with only seven of the 132 worldwide species considered to be threatened with extinction. Most species are fairly resistant to changes in habitat, and while attractive the family is not sought after by the cagebird trade, as they have what is considered an unpleasant song (thin, high pitched trills and twitters) and are tricky to keep alive. Sunbirds are considered attractive birds and readily enter gardens where flowering plants are planted to attract them.

As mentioned they are often mistaken for butterflies, so the next time you see something that looks like a butterfly hovering near a flower head, take a closer look and you might be lucky and actually be watching this little gem of a bird.

Pictured on the right from top to bottom are:

Olive-backed Sunbird

Purple Sunbird

Black-throated Sunbird

Crimson Sunbird

Purple-throated Sunbird

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird


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