About the Author

Pete Thorpe

Field Guide

Right from his very first bush trip at the age of four, Pete was always enthralled by this environment. Having grown up in the Middle East, Pete’s home-away-from-home has always been a bungalow in the Greater Kruger National Park, where his family had ...

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31 Comments

on Sunbirds – Africa’s Hummingbirds

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Marinda Drake
Master Tracker

I love Sunbirds. I’ve got two collared sunbirds in my garden that visit the aloes outside my bedroom window every morning. Through out summer, even if the aloes are not flowering. They are there in winter with many others. I must confess that I have got a bottle of sugar water for them hanging in the sicklebush. The birds are there all day long and it is very entaining to see the different varietes and their interactions with each other. The aloes have got buds on already so soon they will all be back.

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Hi Marinda,

There is one aloe in our garden here in camp that has just started flowering.

Apparently a greater double-collared sunbird was seen in the White River area recently so keep a look out for that on your feeder. Mine gets finished within two days – hopefully yours lasts longer!

Joan Schmiidt
Master Tracker

Pete, I saved the humming bird to my pictures

Callum Evans
Guest contributor

Sunbirds are some of my favourite birds to photograph!! I have yet to take good photos of the 5 Londolozi sunbirds, but I regularly get to photograph SDB, orange-breasted and malachite sunbirds in Cape Town. I still need to see the more elusive species like Neergaards and purple-banded.

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Hi Callum,

I can quite confidently say that getting photos of the orange-breasted sunbird here won’t be happening. Embrace the mountain species while you can! Maybe a Cape rockjumper while you’re at it?

Chelsea Allard
Senior Digital Ranger

Such beautiful little birds! It’s spring here and our Ruby Throated Hummingbirds have started returning from their winter homes in South America. I love watching them at the feeder each day.

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Hi Chelsea,

I just looked up the Ruby-throated hummingbird. The general resemblance to the double-collared sunbirds in South Africa is striking. Enjoy the viewing!

Brian Everitt
Digital Ranger

Wow absolutely beautiful. Birds are so gorgeous with their amazing colors

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Hi Brian,

Indeed they are… The iridescence is something we do not see often or without taking the time to appreciate it.

Brilliant shots, Good to know the difference between Sunbirds & Hummingbirds, thanks. All the best from the States.

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Thanks Christy,

Glad it was helpful. Keep well!

Victoria Auchincloss
Digital Tracker

living in the city, downtown, our birds are pretty much limited to cardinals, crows and sparrows. so it is always a treat to see all the wonderful birds you have at Londolozi. I am guilty of not noticing the « hummingbirds » but will make a point of looking for them the next time we visit. stay safe Victoria

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Hi Victoria,

Yes it’s definitely worthwhile keeping a look out for the sunbirds on your return! Although, even the common birds that aren’t as colourful as sunbirds can be very entertaining when we start observing their day-to-day behaviour and patterns.

Ivy Wilensky
Digital Ranger

What lovely photos – thank you for sharing 🙂

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Thanks Ivy!

Wendy Hawkins
Senior Digital Ranger

Oh Pete I am envious of that awesome bed of Aloes in flower at Londo right now! How beautiful & the pictures of the Sunbirds are so precious, just our jewels of the feathered variety. Thank you so much for this blog 🙂

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Pleasure Wendy!

Gloria Brislin
Explorer

Flowering aloes and sunbirds have definitely brightened up our lockdown, even if only in our small townhouse garden.

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

It really is wonderful how birds are widespread throughout the world. Even in cities, birds can still brighten up ones day.

Ann Richardson Berg
Senior Digital Ranger

Fantastique pictures and very interesting to read about these beautiful birds! The pictures are so beautiful!!
When is the best time to come to Londolozi to see sunbirds? Or birds in general?
Thank you for sharing!

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Hi Ann,

The birding is always fantastic here as the majority of the species are resident. However, the best time for birding is in and around summer when all the migratory species are here. So from around November to late March. Sunbirds make small local movements and are prolific and concentrated around aloes when they are flowering around late April to August/September.

Joanne Wadsworth Kelley
Master Tracker

I’ve always thought that Africa has some of the most beautiful and colorful birds in the world. Some are also very unusual. Thanks Pete for these excellent images!

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Hi Joanne,

Thanks!
Closer to the equator in Africa the diversity of bird species is incredibly high and ranks as one of the most bird-rich areas in the World. We are very lucky where we are, particularly in summer when all the migratory species are around.

Linda Rawles
Senior Digital Ranger

Great piece and great photos! I have been lucky enough to see sunbirds at Londo, and also the bee hummingbird in Cuba and the giant hummingbird in Ecuador.

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Hi Linda,

From the biggest to the smallest hummingbirds… What great experiences for you!

Linda Rawles
Senior Digital Ranger

I am very grateful for my experiences with Mother Earth and her creatures. And to all of you at Londolozi and everyone who works in eco-tourism and conservation.

Paul Canales
Senior Digital Ranger

So cool! The sunbird are beautiful, vibrantly marked, and your post caused me to do a little research. It seems like they fly more like a regular bird, landing and feeding on nectar from a perched position rather than hovering like a hummingbird. Is this correct? Also, like all other birds other than hummingbirds, they seem to fly forward, whereas hummingbirds can fly forward and backwards. Is this correct as well? Let me know and thank you!

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Hi Paul,

Yes, sunbirds can also hover but will normally perch as you mentioned. It is easier for them to probe their head back and forth into a flower from a perch and is most likely more energy efficient than hovering while feeding.

In terms of backwards flight – from the research that I have done it seems that sunbirds are unable to fly backwards. But I am going to keep a look out and see if I observe it out here!

Paul Canales
Senior Digital Ranger

Rad, as we say in California! Thank Pete!

Gay Walker
Explorer

A wonderful blog this week. Thank you. I am very envious of the aloe garden. Wish they grew here in the UK. I have one miniature aloe on my kitchen window sill which is the best I can do.

Michael and Terri Klauber
Guest contributor

Awesome shots Pete! Tony Goldman does it again with his shot of the white-bellied sunbird!

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