Over 130 species of tiny, colorful sunbirds are distributed across Africa, southern Asia and northern Australia. They are, in many ways, the ecological equivalents of the hummingbirds and honey-creepers, and are just as brilliantly colored. I have worked with several species, none of which I would describe as “hearty”, but all of which I find irresistible.
Sunbirds should only be kept by aviculturists who are well-experienced with other delicate tropical birds. I consider them to be nearly as demanding as hummingbirds in their dietary requirements, and far more delicate in terms of stress tolerance.
Today I would like to introduce the Van Hasselt’s sunbird, Nectarinia (Cinnyris) sperata, a species that, while not commonly available, has been captive bred for some time now.
At a mere 4 inches in length, Van Hasselt’s sunbird is one of Asia’s smallest species, and arguably among the most beautifully colored. Males sport a purple-blue gloss to their black backs, iridescent gold-green napes and foreheads and amethyst throats. Females are olive-green with yellow under parts.
Despite their tiny size, these brilliant little birds require a great deal of room. If breeding is desired, the pair should be housed in a densely planted outdoor aviary if at all possible. They have been bred indoors, but usually when at liberty in a sun room equipped with live plants. They will not accept artificial nest boxes, and must in stead be provided with fine grass, bark and moss.
A high quality hummingbird nectar mix can provide the bulk of the diet, with lorikeet nectar being provided for variety as well.
Sunbirds will not thrive, and certainly will not be able to rear their young, unless provided with large quantities of tiny, flying insects. Fruit flies, either bred or attracted to outdoor aviaries, can form the bulk of their insect-based food. Tiny moths are also readily accepted. Most individuals will attempt to take tiny, newly molted (white) mealworms and waxworms, but their thin bills are not well suited for this “rough” fare. Birds housed outdoors (in warm, protected locations) invariably fare better than those kept indoors, partially due to the greater variety of insects available to them.
Although not for everyone, these tropical gems are well worth consideration if you are prepared to meet their demands.
You can read more about this and all related sunbirds at http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMFindResults.asp&hdnAction=SEARCH&hdnPageMode=0&cboFamily=180&txtGenus=&txtSpecies=&txtCommonName=&cboRegion=-2&cboCountry=-2.
Image referenced from Wikipedia and orignally posted by snowmanradio.