Where the Americas have hummingbirds, the Old World has sunbirds; brightly coloured jewels that flash in the light. The males often wear showy colours which makes identification straightforward while females tend towards the dull and difficult (my non-birding, proof-reading wife has just suggested that I change that last sentence, but you know what I mean).
Fynbos is the distinctive vegetation type of the Cape region of South Africa. It is characterised by plant communities such as Ericas, Aloes and Proteas. The Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cinnyris chalybeus, flourishes amongst the fynbos but, unlike some of its close family, is not restricted to this habitat.
Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens in Cape Town provide a wonderful opportunity to view these stunning birds up close. Special beds are dedicated to displaying various fynbos families and there are always flowers blooming to attract the sunbirds in to feed. Like hummingbirds, they have the ability to hover, but only in short bursts and they prefer to perch while they pierce the base of a flower to feed from the nectar.
The Southern Double-collared Sunbird used to be known as the Lesser Double-collared Sunbird to separate it from the very similar Greater Double-collared Sunbird, but a broader red band and an extra 2 cms makes the Greater stand out. Apart from that, they are strikingly similar, even down to the metallic blue rump. If you get a view like this, check that your senses of perspective and distance are accurate.
They are not great singers with a non musical, scratchy song reminiscent of some of their New World counterparts. Thank you to www.xeno-canto.org for permission to embed this song from their collection.
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