forage both at tree tops and among lower bushes.
Yellow-breasted Sunbird, Kelichap
The Olive-backed Sunbird is very bold and often builds nests close
to and even in human habitation (balconies, porches, corridors). Not
surprisingly then, it is among the most common Sunbirds in this region.
Sunbirds survive mainly on nectar, although they may snack on the
occasional insect. Their nectar extraction equipment include: a long,
slender, decurved bill with fine serration along the margins of both
mandibles; and a tubular, deeply cleft tongue. Males are particularly
territorial and may defend a good feeding site from other Sunbirds.
Although it is said that they cannot hover like true hummingbirds
(which are found only in tropical Americas), Sunbirds can hover briefly.
But they do prefer to cling to a nearby stem or vegetation as they
sip nectar. They may "steal" the nectar by piercing through
the base of the flower than going through the front of the flower
(thus avoiding payment of pollinating services in exchange for the
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
smallest Sunbird (11cm), bill thin and obviously decurved;
distinctive white tips at outer tail feathers.
Male: Metallic blue-black
forehead, throat and upper breast, contrasting with bright
yellow underparts; upperparts dull olive brown.
Female: Upperparts dull olive
brown; underparts all yellow, brighter yellow than other
Juvenile: Similar to females.
Call: Described as constant
rough metallic chirps cheep-cheep-wheet; also a
high-pitched rising chee.
In flight: Darting flight.
Status in Singapore: Very
common resident throughout the island, including North
and South offshore islands.
World distribution: Southern
China to the Philippines down to Australia.
Classification: Family Nectarinidae
(Flowerpeckers, Sunbirds, Spiderhunters). World 169 species,
Singapore 13 species.
Like other Sunbirds, the Olive-backed male is more colourful than the female.
In fact, females of most species of Sunbirds look very similar.
Breeding: Sunbirds form monogamous
pairs. The Olive-backed Sunbirds breed in April-August. They build
a hanging flask-shaped nest with an overhanging porch at the entrance,
and a trail of hanging material at the bottom end. Materials used
include plant fibres, mosses, spider's web. The nest is lined with
soft fluffy seeds (e.g., kapok, lallang grass seeds). The outside
of the nest is often untidy and decorated with lichens, dead leaves
and seed cases. They usually nest low in bushes and trees, but also
close to humans and even in high-rise buildings! 2 greenish-blue eggs
with dark brown spots and lines are laid. Males usually don't help
in incubation, but may help out in raising the young.
Status and threats: Olive-backed Sunbirds are not at risk. Highly
adaptable, they are the most common Sunbird in Singapore and are found almost
everywhere except the deepest forest. Originally from from mangroves, they
have spread to forest margins and secondary growths, to cultivated areas
(parks, gardens) and even urban areas.
- Morten Strange,
"A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including
Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000
(p. 354: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
- Morten Strange,
"Tropical Birds of Malaysia and Singapore", Periplus
Editions, 2000 (p. 60-61: habits, habitat, photo).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore",
Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay
- Lim Kim Seng and
Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds
of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 117: identification,
status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
- G W H Davison
and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular
Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995
(p. 123: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
- Morten Strange
and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the
Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing,
1993 (p. 61: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
- Clive Briffett,
"A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science
Centre,1992 (p. 132: habit, habitat).
- Christopher Hails,
"Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times
Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 148: habits, description, status in
Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
- G C Madoc, "An
Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947
(p. 200: description, habits, habitat).
- Sir John A S Bucknill
and E N Chasen, "Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia",
Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 215-217: identification, status
in Singapore, distribution, field notes on habits, drawings).
- Dr. Harold G Cogger
(et. al), "Encyclopedia of Animals"; Honeyeaters and
their allies by Terence Lindsey, 1993 (p. 427: general habits and habitats).