Birds of the World

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ANECDOTES

  Nectar-feeders
 
 
 

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Passeriformes, Oscines, Passerida, Passeroidea - Nectar-feeders
 
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Passerida, Passeroidea
Families: Sugarbirds, Flowerpeckers, Sunbirds and Spiderhunters,
   Solitary Berrypeckers and Longbills, Painted Berrypeckers
 
Images:   
Crimson Sunbird, Copper-throated Sunbird, Olive-backed Sunbird
   
  Order Passeriformes - Perching Birds
   Suborder Passeres - "Oscines," Song Birds
Wiki     ToL     EoL
Wiki     ToL
  Passerines. Most passerines are smaller than members of non-passerine orders. They have a perching foot with three toes directed forward and the one (the hallux) backward with locking tendons to facilitate perching when their tendons are flexed. All passerines scratch by bringing the foot over the wing. Incubation ranges from 11 -21 days. Young are altricial - they hatch blind with little or no down - and nidicolous - spending 10-15 days or so in the nest.  Subsequent development is rapid and young approach adult mass at fledging. Parents provide care beyond fledging.
Oscines, Suborder Passeres, are our "song birds" with complex syringeal muscles used to produce varied and complex vocalizations.
Passerida. Radiation in Eurasia, Africa and North America (with later colonization of South America). Passerida have two humeral fossae (Corvida have one).
Passeroidea - herbivores (many seed-eaters) centered in the Palearctic and New World. Many are bright and sexually dimorphic.
 
  Superfamily Passeroidea  
ToL
  1,651 species, 327 genera. This line diverged from the Sylvioidea about 20-30 MYA – million years ago  (Sibley and Ahlquist, 1990). Mainly herbivores with many seed eaters. Near global distribution - centered in Palearctic and New World. Many colorful and sexually dimorphic forms.
   
  Larks
Sibley and Monroe (1990) place the Family Aludidae here. We have moved them to the Sylvioidea in proximity with the swallows and Old World warblers.
   
  Nectar-feeding Passeroids
The taxonomy of the next five families is complicated because unrelated taxa have been grouped based on convergence in structure of their tongue. Sibley and Monroe (1990) arrange these as follows:

Family Nectariniidae
   Subfamily Promeropinae - Sugarbirds
   Subfamily Nectariniinae
      Tribe Dicaeini - Flowerpeckers
      Tribe Nectariniini - Sunbirds, Spiderhunters
Family Melanocharitidae - Berrypeckers, Longbills
Family Paramythiidae - Painted Berrypeckers
 
  Family Promeropidae - Sugarbirds
Wiki     EoL
  2 (2) species, 1 genus (Promerops). Southern  Africa. Placed in the Nectariniidae by the Encyclopedia of Life.
   Small, specialized nectar feeders, depending on Protea for food. In turn, the plant depends on the birds for pollination. They resemble large sunbirds. They are about 40 cm in length but two-thirds of this is the tail. They have a relatively long decurved and pointed bill. Sexes are alike. They are olive-brown on top and lighter underneath. They are often found in pairs or are loosely colonial. They forage by perching on flowers, largely disappearing into the flower heads as they forage. They are found only where Protea grows - grasslands, riverine bush, parks and gardens.  They have brownish plumage, a long decurved bill and long tail feathers.
   They build open, cup-shaped nests. placed nest in a tree fork – unlike the pensile nests of the sunbirds. They lay 1-3 eggs which the female incubates for 16-18 days. The young remain in the nest for about 3 weeks.
 
  Family Dicaeidae – Flowerpeckers
Wiki
  44 (44) species, 2 genera (Prionochilus (EoL), Dicaeum (EoL)). Southern Asia from India east to the Philippines and south to Australia. Also placed in the Nectariniidae by the Encyclopedia of Life.
   Small, stout, brightly colored birds with short tails, short and thick curved bills and a tubular tongue with a double-grooved tip, adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen. They resemble sunbirds but are smaller with a shorter bill. They have 10 primaries - the outer is well developed in Prionochilus and rudimentary in Dicaeum. Many species are sexually dimorphic with brightly colored males. Many are active foragers, feeding in flowering and fruiting trees and bushes. They pollinate many plants and disperse their seeds (they are particularly associated with mistletoes). They are found in forests, woodlands, and thickets.
   They are monogamous and most pairs remain together in family groups after breeding. They build a purse-like hanging nest. They incubate 1-3 eggs for ~12 days. Nestlings fledge after 15 days.
 
  Family Nectariniidae – Sunbirds, Spiderhunters
Wiki       Wiki       Wiki     EoL
  123 species, 5 genera (Sibley and Monroe, 1990). 131 species (Clements, 2007); 127 species, 16 genera (Dickinson, 2003; Harris, 2009). Paleotropics - sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, coastal Arabia, southern Asia, Melanesia and the Philippines south through New Guinea to northeastern Australia.
   Small nectar-feeders. Spiderhunters will eat a few insects and spiders but they too are primarily nectivorous. They are rapid fliers and most can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, but most perch to feed. They have varied bills but most are slender, decurved and pointed. Spiderhunters have longer and more decurved bills. The tongue is long, tubular and divided at the tip. They are sexually dimorphic – males are brightly colored with metallic hues. They have long, thin, downcurved bills and a brush-tipped tongue. They may defend particularly rich resources. They may feed by extending their bill into corolla tubes. With longer tubed plants, they may pierce the flower at the base to feed. Sunbirds are found in a variety of habitats, wherever flowers abound.
   All are monogamous. Sunbirds build a oval or purse-shaped hanging nest; spiderhunters attach cup-shaped nests below large leaves by stitching using plant fibers or cobwebs. Most lay 2-3 eggs which the female incubates for 14-17 days. The young fledge in about 17 days.
  Photos by Ed Konrad. Singapore
Copper-throated Sunbird
Olive-backed Sunbird
Crimson Sunbird
  Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja
                                               Wiki     EoL
Copper-throated (Macklot''s) Sunbird, Leptocoma calcostetha
                                               
Wiki     EoL
Olive-backed Sunbird, Cinnyris jugularis
                                              
 Wiki     EoL
 
  Family Melanocharitidae - Solitary Berrypeckers, Longbills
Wiki     EoL
  12 species, 6 genera (Dickinson, 2003; Harris, 2009). 10 species (Clements, 2007). Sibley and Monroe divide the Family as follows:
      Tribe Melanocharitini – Berrypeckers  6 species, 1 genus  (Melanocharis)
      Tribe Tocorhamphini – Longbills, Pygmy Honey-eater  4 species, 2 genera (Toxorhamphus, Oedistoma)
New  Guinea.
   Berrypeckers resemble flowerpeckers but their tongue is less specialized for nectar feeding. Some have made the transition to fruit eating. Long-bills resemble sunbirds with long, decurved bills. Small birds. Short, broad-based pointed bill. In two longbills, the bill is longer than the head. Most are sexually domorphic with various bold colors and patterns. They feed on small fruits and insects. Longbills also sip nectar. They feed actively by hovering or rapidly covering foliage. They are found from lowlands to montane forests on New Guinea.
   They build cup-shaped nests, usually slung from a branch above ground. They lay 1-2 eggs which the female incubates. Both parents feed young.
 
  Family Paramythiidae – Painted (Flock) Berrypeckers
Wiki     EoL
  2 (2) species, 2 genera. Crested Berrypecker, Paramythiam montium; Tit Berrypecker, Oreocharis arfaki. Mountain forests of New Guinea. Included in the Melanocharitidae by Clements (2007) and Harris (2009).
   Berrypeckers resemble short, stout-billed honeyeaters. They are colorful, medium-sized birds feeding on fruit  and flowers in the middle to upper story of the forest. They have short necks, plump bodies and broad wings. The plumage is soft and downy. The Crested Berrypecker has an erectile crest. They are active and relatively social, often joining mixed species flocks.
   Both species are monogamous. They build open cups using moss. The female incubates by herself with incubation lasting over 12 days. Both parents feed young and attend to nest sanitation.