Last week I posted some photographs of the Orange-breasted sunbirds that we saw at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town. This week their cousins take centre stage; the beautiful Southern double-collared sunbirds, which flit amongst the Proteas and Ericas of Kirstenbosch gathering nectar and doing their bit for pollination. Also known as the Lesser double-collared sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus) this little sunbird has a wider habitat than the Orange-breasted sunbird and, not being restricted to fynbos, is found further afield in the Karoo, and in the forests and gardens in the eastern parts of South Africa.
The sunbirds that we photographed here don’t have the familiar broad red breast band as they are in their eclipse plumage The adult males in the Western Cape moult in October to December, so we were probably just a little early to see these beautiful birds in their full finery. We often find birds quite a puzzle to identify when they aren’t dressed in their full colours.
Their diet mainly consists of nectar, which is drawn up after inserting their long curved bill into the corolla tube of the flower. If there is no tube, the bill is used to pierce the base of the flower. During this feeding pollen sticks to the bill and tongue and is transported to the next flower, allowing the bird to perform its pollinating function without any effort. These sunbirds don’t only rely on nectar for their nourishment, but also eat small invertebrates like beetles, insects, spiders and larvae.
Breeding pairs are monogamous and quite territorial during the breeding season. The female lays between one and three eggs that she incubates over a period of thirteen to sixteen days. The eggs are oval and vary enormously in colour. Nests are occasionally parasitised by Klaas’s Cuckoo, which, as you can imagine, must have these little sunbirds worn out finding food for their ever-hungry and much larger adoptees!
The flowers at Kirstenbosch certainly provide a beautiful backdrop for enjoying these happy little birds. Next time I’ll blog about the waxbills that we saw in the same area.