Common Birds of India

Purple-rumped Sunbird.( Nectarinia zeylonica )

By - Ragoo Rao

The purple-rumped sunbird is a very lovable small bird commonly found throughout the country. As named, the male has glistening metallic crimson, green and purple on the upper parts of the body and yellowish on the lower parts. The female bird has grayish brown upper body with light yellowish under parts. The male gets a very shiny glistening purple in the breeding season. Both sexes are almost the same size.

Under this glistening, lovable small bird is a very bold and fearless complex, which is shown by the males when nesting is going on. They can be seen in home gardens too, early in the mornings flitting from flower to flower with chikk....chikkk...chikkk singing in quest of nectar. It is very amusing to find them hanging upside down from flowers as they send their long needle like beak right into the flowers to suck the nectar. Their favorites are the Hibiscus flowers. They relish insects too. One can find them picking insects air borne when there is a termite migration. They play a vital role in cross-pollination of plants in the course of their feeding.


Seasons are not very well defined. The available source of insect larvae might be playing a role in this, as they bring up the hatch-lings on insect larvae. Only the females build the nest, while the male sits around on a nearby branch and gives a all clear signal with a characteristic tweee...tweee...sound. The nest is an oblong pouch of soft grasses, insect droppings, cobwebs and pieces of bark, hanging from the tip of a branch or creeper. The entrance hole has a projecting canopy. Nests are often built in home gardens also. Two eggs of greenish grey with blotches are laid. Only the female incubates while the male stands guard close by on a branch warning her of any approaching threat with an excited Tweek...Tweek...and hopping around excitedly. The male helps in feeding the young. In about two weeks the hatchlings come out of the nest and linger on to their parents begging for food until they can tend for themselves.

( Photographs -male sunbird, female on nest, by Ragoo Rao)

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