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.
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.
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.