Sunday, December 10, 2023
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Copper-throated Sunbird

Finding a nest is always a bonus for any photographer as it was for this capture. I was brought to this nest by a very hardworking female. She was zooming back and forth to build this nest above a mangrove flow in Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve in Singapore. I have got quite a lot of footage to share and will add to this after some more editing and sifting through the ton of material.

There are 11 sunbird species on Peninsular Malaysia and 119 species are found worldwide and this large sunbird stays close to the coastal and mangrove areas. The male has a bright iridescent green cap and shoulders, with a metallic copper throat and upper breast. The bird's back and neck looks almost black in poor light but actually glistens with a beautiful dark purple shimmer in sunlight. The drab female who is the more hardworking of the couple has a grayish head, white throat which grades into the yellowish tint on her lower breast and belly.

From my observations over a week, the male played no part in the building the nest and merely escorted the female back and forth as she gathered materials. I could be wrong as the nest was almost done when I found it and the female was possibly putting the final touches to the inner chamber as she was going to sit in there a long while.

What is certain is that the male does not incubate the eggs.

So what does the male bird do? For one he keeps himself prim and pretty for sure; I have countless shots of the him preening. The female cleans and preens quite often too; almost every time before she enters her nest to incubate the eggs. 


Here are more preening performances by pretty boy...


By my estimate and by the visits I made to the nest, the incubation period was around 2 weeks. During the incubation solely done by the female, she generally leaves the nest every once in awhile (between 15 to 30 minutes) for feeding. She is often 'invited' by the male out because the male calls or approaches the nest and the female goes out with him. At any time she doesn't stay away for more than 5-10 minutes. And yes, she does doze off in the nest. 

Eventually, two chicks emerged from the eggs.


The feeding was quite relentless, at intervals of less than 4 minutes at times. This means the parent flies away, gets food and returns at 4-8 minute cycles throughout the day. Between the pair, the  female feed three times more often than the male and she pays more attention to the nest and stays longer there, to clean and mend the nest and even take away the chicks' excrement.  The male merely drops his package and leaves immediately.


Here's a shot of the mother bird, feeding than removing the excrement right out the other end of the chick.

The chicks were beginning to get too large for the nest and were stretching out their heads. I missed the fledgelings by a day as I couldn't return to the nest. When I did return a day later, they were gone.
Hopefully I will be able to find another one next nesting season and witness the fledging.

Altogether, I was privileged to be able to observe and record these interesting events for a little over a month.