It’s Sunday in Singapore and it was Sunbird Saturday at Satay by the Bay

When you know that birds have been busy making nests, making out, laying eggs and finally rearing young, it’s always nice to go back to a place and see how youngsters are doing. Yesterday, I thought I’d go and see how Sunbird youngsters that had recently fledged were doing…. just for a couple of hours.

A39T0119-impIt amazes me how such a beautiful bird can construct a nest that’s pretty messy, AND with total disregard at times for the proximity of humans and their potential interference.  This nest (left) was suspended from a plant that meant the nest was literally less than 3 feet beneath an HDB ground floor apartment window, in Tampines.  Whilst I saw the ‘messy nest’ here,  out of respect for the birds and not wishing to disturb them, I made this nest’s location known only to the occupants of the apartment; that way their children could marvel at what was so near to them, and hopefully encourage them to keep the sunbirds and their nesting process ‘dear to them’. They hatched successfully 😉 .

So, back to yesterday, Saturday, August 2nd.  I made a quick trip for a couple of hours at Satay by the Bay, in Singapore, to see how youngsters that had fledged the nest were doing. Ran into a birding friend too, Vincent Ng,  🙂  . It’s great when you meet up with someone who is just as passionate about nature photography as you are and especially if you enjoy their photography skills. I certainly enjoy seeing Vincent’s shots.  So meeting him for the first time in quite a while simply made the morning even nicer as we caught up for a good old “chinwag” in between shots, sharing tips and tricks, places, faces and all… really nice 🙂 . Not all photographers are willing to share and when someone does, it’s kind of special… thank you Vincent, as always!

Aside from an impromptu catch up, the morning presented some nice photo opportunities. Nothing overly spectacular, but nonetheless most enjoyable. Those of you who regularly follow this blog will know how much I love sunbirds here in Singapore. They’re beautiful, have great character and are reasonably abundant; I’d say we are blessed to have such birds here and I have blogged about them a few times. So today I wanted to get a “little practice” with a new video head I had placed on my tripod and at the same time take a few shots of the sunbird ‘youngsters’ that maybe I’d see. I was in for a treat…

I threw all traditional “rules of ⅓ ” out of the window today. I thought it may be a pleasant change to show you these lovely sunbird youngsters ‘up close and personal’ given their relative proximity to where I was standing much of the time. In fact, the camera lens was most often set to minimum focal range, i.e. within 10 metres, for much of the practice shoot.

Male Olive Backed Sunbird some way along the journey to getting the renowned “iridescent blue throat”.

Our most common sunbird in Singapore is the Olive Backed Sunbird (OBS) variety.

It was little surprise that I saw so many and that the youngsters were doing well. Most were feasting on nectar from Heliconia and Ginger plants in the main.

A39T9468-impWhilst the male OBS (above) has gotten much of its’ blue throat in place, it was nice to see other males that were ‘not so far along that journey’, with those trademark blue hues only just beginning to emerge.

Male Olive Backed Sunbird along the way to developing a vibrant plumage.

I saw quite a few males throughout the morning, in varying conditions of development and corresponding plumage development too.

At time those radiant hues ‘weren’t quite there yet’ for some of the birds.


A39T9580-impFor others, that transformation into sheer beauty had taken shape and so a spectrum of plumage development was seen… not perfect yet, but getting there.

On some of the shots, nature’s wondrously engineered sunbird tongue, specifically geared to extract nectar from chosen plants with supreme dexterity, could clearly be seen.


A39T9604-impAs the rising morning sun began to kiss the various plants, the sunbirds were extremely active in securing their energy needs, as more and more plants produced nectar under the sun’s encouragement.

The birds were flitting and skating to their hearts content, from one flowering bud to another, repeating that same pattern of relieving the plant of their nectar.


A39T9415-impFemale OBS’s were in abundance too, as you may expect. It was interesting to see them at various stages of their development too, and all  too often whilst they were in ‘nectar gathering mode’, a male would show up and they both would leave the scene together, aerobatically playing games of ‘cat and mouse’.

(Left) is a female about to take flight under the distracting influence of a male in proximity. If you look carefully you can even see that this startled female has lost some of the nectar droplets she was gathering.

A39T9274-impIt wasn’t long after that another (perhaps the same?) female arrived at a nearby ginger plant.

I expect this is possibly the same bird, having returned once the male’s attentions had been suitably dealt with by eluding him in the playful chase.  Whichever, the bird seemed unperturbed.


This female bird stayed around a little longer, unharried by others, and took full advantage of this period of ‘solace’.  She was happy flitting from bud to bud, uninterrupted.

A39T9671-impA male OBS did put in an appearance after 5 or so minutes, but this time the female seemed less playful and merely retreated to a nearby branch and let out calls that surely confirmed a lack of engagement and a ‘leave me alone’ intent.

A39T9178-impOBS’s were not the only sunbirds to put in an appearance. I was lucky enough to see the Brown Throated Sunbird (BTS) variety too.

This species were also in the ‘plumage development phase’, as can clearly be seen (left). That gorgeous natural palette around the throat is some way along the path towards splendour, but as yet, the journey remains in progress.

A39T9595-impI only saw one BTS male; all other birds of this species were female.

They’re identifiable through the prominent ‘half eye ring’ and also the red eye itself.

Whilst vey young, it has to be said that female BTS’s have yet to become attractive. That red eye and evolving plumage presents a somewhat foreboding appearance to any observer. Several came and went whilst I was watching; they often chased off OBS’s yet that ‘male/female’ cat and mouse behaviour wasn’t seen with males of their own species.

A39T9787-impThe chasing was more of a ‘warding off’  towards OBS’s, in order to gain sole access to nectar providing plants.

Once the other sunbird species had been ‘encouraged to leave’, the BTS’s would arrive back at the ginger plant to begin their own nectar gathering.

A39T9766-impThey regularly ‘came and went’ as the morning progressed, though not with the frequency of the more common Olive Backed Sunbird variety.

So all in all the morning was very pleasing. It was good to catch up with a birding friend, lovely to see the sunbird youngsters flourishing and developing nicely, and a pleasure to shoot a few frames to share with you.

If you get the chance to see a sunbird or two today, then Happy Sunbird Sunday. If not, then have a great Sunday in any event and I hope your binoculars or DSLR are graced with some natural images to bring a smile to you.

Happy Days 🙂 .


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