Creature Feature: olive-backed sunbird

The olive-backed sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis), locally called tamasi, is a common resident of El Nido. It can be identified by its olive-green upper parts, black tail with white tips, dark yellow breast and belly, and brown band on the throat margins. The male is more colorful than the female, with a metallic blue-black throat compared to the female’s yellow throat. Palawan is home to the race aurora, so our male olive-backed sunbird has an additional orange patch on the chest. This bird measures only 4.5 inches long from the beak tip to the tail.

olivebacked sunbird female El Nido Kitsie Torres
Female olive-backed sunbird building a nest in Pangulasian Island Resort (photo by Kitsie Torres)

The olive-backed sunbird has a long, slender, decurved bill and a tubular, deeply cleft tongue, features that are specially adapted for extracting nectar from flowers. Usually, it drinks the nectar from the front of the flower, using its short pointed wings to hover and pollinating the flower in the process. However, it may sometimes “steal” nectar by piercing and drinking from the base of the flower. This way, the olive-backed sunbird gets to eat without doing any favors for the flower. It also feeds on small insects and berries. Though olive-backed sunbirds don’t form lifelong breeding pairs, they do remain faithful to their partners for the duration of their relationship. The males make pendulous nests that hang from branches or palm fronds.

olivebacked sunbird pair El Nido Kitsie Torres
Pair of olive-backed sunbirds (race aurora) in Pangulasian Island Resort (photo by Kitsie Torres)
An olive-backed sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) feeding, photo by Doug Janson

The olive-backed sunbird is the “most common lowland sunbird in coconut plantations, secondary growth, scrub, and gardens below 1,000 meters”. It ranges from Southeast Asia to Australia and the southwest Pacific to the Philippines. The Philippines is home to four endemic races, with the race aurora found in Palawan.

The nest of an olive-backed sunbird in Apulit Island Resort

2 thoughts on “Creature Feature: olive-backed sunbird

  1. I do believe all the ideas you’ve presented on your post.
    They’re very convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are too quick for starters.
    May just you please lengthen them a bit from subsequent time?
    Thanks for the post.

    1. Hi! Thank you for your kind words. The creature features are meant to be brief introductions to the animals often found here in the islands. However, you have a good point about adding in more details! Will consider that when we do our next features 🙂

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