Saturday 25 May
Purple sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica)
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Purple sunbird fact file
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Purple sunbird description
The purple sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica) is a small sunbird species with a slender, curved bill and a tubular tongue, which is well adapted for feeding on the nectar of flowers (3). The male purple sunbird has two distinct types of plumage. The breeding male is characterised by the metallic bluish-black body, and the tuft of crimson and yellow feathers under each wing. In contrast, the non-breeding male purple sunbird has a much duller ‘eclipse’ plumage that resembles the female, with yellow underparts and a dark line of feathers running down the centre of the throat and breast (4) (5).
The female purple sunbird is greenish-brown with a bright yellow underside, a dark brown tail, and white tips on the outer feathers (5).
A vocal species, the male purple sunbird perches on the top branch of a tree and delivers repetitions of a sharp chirp, followed by a loud song (5). This species is known to defend its territory by singing and chasing intruders (4).
- Average weight: 8.2 g (2)
Purple sunbird biology
The purple sunbird is predominately a nectar-feeding bird, but raises its young on small invertebrates. This species is capable of hovering like a hummingbird for short periods of time to feed on nectar while in flight. Usually, however, it feeds from flowers while perched, and is even capable of hanging upside down to feed. The purple sunbird obtains the nectar by inserting its long tongue down into the base of a flower and retracting it back into the bill (4) (5).
The breeding season of the purple sunbird varies across the Asian continent, generally coinciding with the months where flowers are most abundant (4). During these months, the female purple sunbird constructs a hanging oval or pear-shaped nest from a tree, roughly three metres from the ground. The nest is built using an array of materials including leaves, grasses, hair, twigs, and caterpillar droppings, all woven together with cobwebs, with a small entrance near the top (4) (5).Top
Purple sunbird range
The purple sunbird occupies an extremely vast range across the Asian continent, occurring from the Arabian Gulf to Southeast Asia. In the Middle East, it is usually found in southern Iran, northern United Arab Emirates, and northern Oman (4).Top
Purple sunbird habitat
The purple sunbird is found in many different habitats across Asia, including farmland, rural gardens, subtropical and tropical forests, and shrubland (2).Top
Purple sunbird status
The purple sunbird is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Purple sunbird threats
Habitat destruction and human activity have led to a decline in the number of trees and green spaces the purple sunbird can inhabit. This is a particular concern in India, where urbanisation has increased rapidly (6). Destruction of suitable nesting trees has also been recorded in Iran (4).Top
Purple sunbird conservation
Various conservation measures which benefit the purple sunbird are in place in the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area, in the Himalayas. Here, WWF has partnered with the local and indigenous communities to conserve biodiversity. The area is protected and corridors have been established allowing migration of species to other protected areas. The purple sunbird is similarly protected within the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, also in the Himalayas (7).Top
Find out more
More information on the purple sunbird:
BirdLife International - Purple sunbird:
Find out about conservation in countries of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas:
Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) Conservation Portal:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
- An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a group.
IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
BirdLife International (November, 2010)
- Dewar, D. (1911) Indian Sunbirds. Bird Notes: The Journal of the Foreign Bird Club, 2: 129-134.
- Ghadirian, T., Qashqaei, A., and Dadras, M. (2008) Notes on feeding and breeding habits of the purple sunbird Nectarinia asiatica (Cinnyris asiaticus) in Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan, Southern Iran. Podoces, 2(2): 122-126.
- Whistler, H. (1949) Popular Handbook of Indian Birds. Gurney and Jackson, London.
Arora, S. and Bhatt, J.R. (2008) National Biodiversity Action Plan. Government of India Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi. Available at:
Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) Conservation Portal (November, 2010)
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