Jun 21 2009

Sun Solstice, Sunbird

Published by at 8:34 am under Phenology,Travel

Male Regal Sunbird, native of central equatorial Africa (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the Summer Solstice, the day when the sun's rays reach the furthest north and the sun shines its longest throughout the northern hemisphere.  Here in Pittsburgh we'll have 15 hours and 4 minutes of sunlight.  For my friends in Finland, the sun will be above the horizon for 19 hours with bright twilight for the remaining five.  It's a happy day in Finland.

Musings about the sun and thoughts about birds combined in my head into "sunbird." 

Did you know there's a family of birds called sunbirds, Nectariniidae, who live in Africa, southern Asia and northern Australia?  The one pictured here is a male Regal Sunbird, Nectarinia regia, native of central equatorial Africa. 

Sunbirds have a lifestyle similar to our hummingbirds because they feed primarily on nectar.  Though the two families are unrelated they're an example of convergent evolution: their needs are so similar that they're equipped with the same tools.

Like hummingbirds, sunbirds they have short wings and fly fast.  Some even hover, though most species perch as seen here.  They have long bills for collecting nectar but will also collect insects to feed their young.  The males are brilliantly colored, often in metallic hues.  And like our hummingbirds, sunbirds who live where it's cold at night are capable of entering torpor. 

Except for his curved bill and long tail this sunbird looks a lot like a hummingbird.  Unlike our hummingbirds his equatorial range means he'll never experience summer's longest day. 

For more about summer and our longest day, see Chuck Tague's blog.  For more about sunbirds, click here.

(photo of male Regal Sunbird from Wikimedia Commons)

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Sun Solstice, Sunbird”

  1. Libby Strizzion 21 Jun 2009 at 9:01 am

    what a beautiful little bird! Wish I’d see him at my hummingbird feeder. Which reminds me, time to put out fresh sugar water. The rain really dilutes what’s out there.

  2. Kathy Bramanon 21 Jun 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Kate: This is a totally other subject. I don’t know if you have been following your “Beauty”, but she and Archer, after a failed, first egg season, have found the nest box on the Times Square Building in Rochester NY, and are going through all of the natural steps from bowing to moving pebbles around. It is very exciting especially after the season Rochester has been through. It really appears that these two will make Rochester their home and perhaps be productive next year.


    Check out other postings regarding this exciting development. There is a short movie of Beauty settling in and getting comfortable!

  3. Corneliaon 22 Jun 2009 at 5:27 am

    Very adorable multi-colored bird. I’m imagining myself in the forest with little birds chirping and not worrying of deadlines for work.

  4. Elspethon 22 Jun 2009 at 10:41 am

    My sister lives in Malanda in North Queensland (Australia) and they have a sunbird who regularly builds a nest on a wire near their porch. 🙂

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