|by Marcia Malory|
Sunbirds are tiny passerines that make up the Nectariniidae family.
They eat nectar and are physically very similar to hummingbirds, which are also nectar-eaters.
However, sunbirds live in Africa, Asia and Australia, while hummingbirds live in the Americas and are not passerines. The similarity between sunbirds and hummingbirds is an example of convergent evolution, in which unrelated organisms that occupy similar niches develop similar characteristics.
Some sunbirds have long bills that curve downwards which allow them to reach nectar in flowers.
While most sunbirds perch to eat, some hover over flowers, like hummingbirds.
While hummingbirds sometimes fly backwards, sunbirds do not.
Male sunbirds have bright jewel-like coloration; females are duller.
Sunbirds are diurnal (active during the day).
Their nests look like small purses and are hung from branches. The nests are made of plant fibers and may be matted with spiderwebs.
The purple sunbird, which lives in southern Asia, is less than 4 inches long. Males are metallic purplish black with dark brown wings.
Purple sunbirds usually do not hover, but instead perch carefully when feeding.
The olive-colored female builds her nest by herself.
Spiderhunters are a group of relatively large sunbirds.
They range from between about five and about nine inches long.
They eat spiders and insects as well as nectar. They can grab spiders while they are in their webs.
Spiderhunters live in forests in eastern Asia.
Both male and female spiderhunters have duller coloring than other sunbirds.