Sunbirds Heaven

Crimson Sunbird - male - Portrait by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

by Alex Vargas on October 20, 2011 · 0 comments

in Birding Asia, Digiscoping & Bird Photography

Sunbirds are Fantastic birds and Krating Waterfall it’s a real Hotspot to photograph them!

I was trilled to see 3 species of Sunbirds at the roadside gardens of the Rain Forest Discovery Center (Malaysian Borneo) in 2010, but when I visited Wat Krating Waterfallin Khao Kitchakut National Park (eastern Thailand), I was blown away in a few hours!

Nectariniidaes feed mostly on nectar, but some take fruit and all of them will hunt -even hawking- insects during the time they’ll be feeding a brood. They are closely accounted as similar to the Hummingbirds in America and the Australian Honeyeaters, to the point of theories of Convergent Evolution, but I can’t truly find a reason they are not actually regarded more like looking alike and behaving alike the Honeycreepers of America… they really DO resemble quite more!…

Red-legged Honeycreeper - male by Alex Vargas

Red-legged Honeycreeper - male by Alex Vargas, Costa Rica 2010

There are 132 species in 15 Genus that are dispersed throughout Africa, Southern Asia and northern Australia. In Thailand we are blessed with 22 species!

I don’t know of any other spot where you can find so many of these little -super colorful- jewels of the Nectariniidae family together… I have found and photographed 6 in one single bush in one single day!… yes 6!!!…  Krating Waterfall rocks!… All you need is to sit down, prepare your gear and enjoy the show… they will come for sure to their favorite red flowers, jumping and singing, chasing each other…

Chinese Hat Flower (Holmskioldia sanguinea) by Alex Vargas

Chinese Hat Flower (Holmskioldia sanguinea) by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

Ok, so… let’s show you the results of my three visits to this lovely, hot and humid sunbirds paradise…

Let’s start with the Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja.
Definitely the best place to find this bird is Krating. There are 3 or 4 couples well established and stationed in the Chinese Hat Plant and they behave pretty aggressive, chasing away all others and displaying for the females.

Crimson Sunbird - male by Alex Vargas

Crimson Sunbird - male by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

The Olive-backed Sunbird, Cinnyris jugularis (also known as Yellow-bellied Sunbird in Australia) is the most common of the Nectariniidaes in Thailand and you can easily find them in gardens and open areas through the country, even in downtown, Bangkok. In the famous Chinese Hats of Krating, there are several pairs that try to get some nectar before the Crimsons come and scare them away…

Olive-backed Sunbird - male by Alex Vargas

Olive-backed Sunbird - male by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

Another species widely distributed and common in Thailand, it’s the Brown-throated Sunbird, Anthreptes malacensis (also known as Plain-throated) and I found it pretty easy on my first two visits to Krating. Somehow, I struggled to -even- see one in my last visit there…

Brown-throated Sunbird - male by Alex Vargas

Brown-throated Sunbird - male by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

A fantastic species that -somewhat- looks different, with a smaller bill, but beautiful and colorful presence as well, is the Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Anthreptes singalensis. This species is not at the Chinese Hats all the time and will only come for quick visits. This is notoriously the one with the fiercest respond to the Crimson’s attack… however, it always ends up running away too…

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird - male by Alex Vargas

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird - male by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

Now, let’s talk about a bird that I love, but that I hate as well…  The Purple-throated SunbirdNectarinia sperata (also known as Van Hasselt’s Sunbird). This is for sure a fantastic jewel with an incredible mix of colors and a surprising iridescence!I love how cool and beautiful this little bird is, but I hate it as it made me go -three times- to this location and wait long hours in the intense heat to finally appear the last time I was at the spot, nearly at 6pm and in a rainy day, jumping without a break and running terrified at first glance of a Crimson… meaning, no winner shots yet…

Purple-throated Sunbird - male by Alex Vargas

Purple-throated Sunbird - male by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

Oh well… I guess that as soon as I get a new chance and improve my images of this cool bird, I’ll go back to ONLY loving it dearly again… =)   In this second shot, you can really see the reason for its name in english…

Purple-throated Sunbird - display by Alex Vargas

Purple-throated Sunbird - display by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

Finally, number 6 on the list, isn’t that colorful as the other Nectariniidaes shown here, but what a nice and enigmatic bird it is… the Little Spiderhunter, Arachnothera longirostra, which is a big billed bird with quite an attitude!… This bird rarely takes any part on the Chinese Hats feast, but it really loves a Ginger Plant under the shade of the same bush. This is the ideal bird for bird-photography, as you can -almost- touch it and will mind his own nectar-feeding business without concern!

Little Spiderhunter by Alex Vargas

Little Spiderhunter by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

 

If you ever crave for color and grace, the Sunbirds may be a good bet, then, Krating Waterfall in Khao Kitchakut National Park, most be the spot to look at…

 

Happy Bird-Photo adventures!

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