Sadly, we do not have hummingbirds in Singapore, though given our climate I am somewhat baffled why this is the case. But we do have Sunbirds, and they’re gorgeous!
Many believe the “official” bird of SIngapore is a sunbird – the Crimson Sunbird. This is not strictly true… this bird is recognised by many, far and wide, as Singapore’s “national bird”… but this isn’t official per se. I imagine that part of the reason this bird is associated with Singapore is because of the red colour that’s so vibrant and rich… the same rich red that we see on Singapore’s flag.
Crimson Sunbirds are not rare, but they are not the most common of our islands’ sunbirds either.
They visit gardens regularly and are enjoyed by many that have plants which provide for their nectar requirements.
Aside from gardens, sunbirds are seen island-wide in nature reserves, forests, and most anywhere that their favourite plants are to be found. They seem to really have a penchant for Heliconia plants (also known as ‘false bird of paradise’, ‘lobster claw’ or ‘wild plantain’ plants), as well as ginger, in particular.
Sunbirds have quite a beak that looks a little foreboding. Many would say “I wouldn’t want to get pecked with that”! But this beak is wonderfully engineered and inside is a nectar extracting tongue that has evolved to provide quite the tool to make sure available calorific nourishment can be sought and obtained. Sunbirds do not merely feed on nectar; they have requirements for a balanced diet, as do all creatures, and so their protein, mineral, amino acids, vitamins etc., tend to come from their other favourite meal – insects, grubs and larvae. Singapore has 6 species of sunbird and I have yet to see them all. Those I have seen, however, are all stunningly pretty.
Recently at Gardens by the Bay, I noticed a bed of ginger plants, with Heliconia right next to them. I thought that if ever there was a likely location for sunbirds, then this would be it. So I planted down my tripod and camera, and waited patiently.
It wasn’t too long before another species of sunbird appeared, ready to feast on nectar and insects provided by the ginger plants.
This was a brown throated sunbird, a male, with the male’s typical more vibrant colouration.
This species equally is not the most common, nor rare either.
I watched this bird flitting and skitting from ginger plant to ginger bud, and managed to capture several shots of this bird when it was reasonably close to me.
That quintessential sunbird beak was obvious and prominent again. Sunbirds do not always insert the beak and tongue into the flowering part of the plant they are taking nectar from; at times this beak is a perfect tool to pierce the plant, thus providing access to the plants’ bounty of liquid energy.
The male Brown Throated Sunbird was stunningly pretty and my viewfinder was enriched with all those colours that nature’s palette had placed before it. I moved a little closer to see if I could capture the full array of colours that this lovely birds’ throat was proudly presenting to me.
The trip to Gardens by the Bay was to be a short one, so I did not have much time to explore other species that may have been around. I decided to stay where i was and see if other sunbird species may choose to feast on the heliconia and ginger plants.
Sure enough, Singapore’s most common sunbird, the Olive Backed Sunbird, made a predictable appearance not long afterwards. I must admit that given the colours of this bird, I’m surprised that it has been named “olive backed”. It’s almost as if this name ‘plays down’ the birds’ beauty and it’s iridescent feathers on the throat. Maybe there’s a blue throated sunbird elsewhere in the world and thus another name needed to be found?
In any event, despite being very common indeed, few would doubt nor detract from this birds’ beauty.
I see them most every time I venture out for nature photography. All over Singapore. They really are that common and their trademark chirping is a regular sound that’s always music to my ears.
I posted recently about photographing an Olive BackedSunbird that I heard, whilst walking though and industrial estate (a short cut, en route to a local river).
This beauty was photographed on a potted plant. The ONLY potted plant to be seen and the only source of nectar in proximity.
I heard the chirp and went to investigate… and there he was 🙂 .
I have photographed other species of sunbird in addition to those above; but not in Singapore. This is actually very nice, as whilst I am in search of the other species, I know I’ll be attentively seeking out and looking at any sunbirds I may see or hear.
Having said that, I think I’d seek them out anyway. They’re just too beautiful to ever ignore and when such a gorgeous creature has then chance to grace my camera’s sensor, then Ithink the shutter should accommodate.
I’m very lucky to be in Singapore, which many mistakenly assume is merely a concrete jungle and a mere metropolis. We have sun. We have birds. And we have beautiful sunbirds.
Happy Days 🙂 .