Loten’s Sunbird Photo Guide

I invite you to take a brief tour through images of this tiny bird. I have handpicked images which captures the key features of the bird. By seeing these photos, and reading the tips below, you can get familiar with this bird. However,I encourage you to make your own mental notes of features you find unique and striking.
Cinnyris lotenius

Photo Courtesy of Vivekpuliyeri @ Nilambur,Kerala, Jul 2013

This is the male bird. He looks resplendent in his shiny upper plumage, doesn’t he? The lower plumage is blackish brown.Did you notice that he is sticking out his tubular tongue? This along with the very long slender bill aids in feeding nectar from flowers.The bill is much longer than the more widespread purple sunbird and the plumage browner.

Loten's sunbird male

Photo Courtesy of Vivekpuliyeri @ Nilambur,Kerala, Jul 2013

Here is a another view of the male bird.Now you can see the rich metallic purple in his breast.If you look closely, you can see a maroon band separating the metallic purple from the deep brown of the belly.

cinnyris lotenius feeding nectar

Photo Courtesy of Natasha Mhatre @ IISc,Bangalore, Oct 2007

Although they usually perch to feed, they can hover over flowers just like their new world counterparts, the hummingbirds.They feed on small insects and spiders in addition to nectar from flowers.

Given below is the drawing of a hard to observe feature of the male bird.They are the yellow pectoral tufts, tinged with orangish red. This is hard to see unless the bird is preening or opens its wings.They usually use these bright feathers during display to females.Pectoral tufts of Loten's sunbird

Photo Courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library @ A monograph of the Nectariniidae, or, Family of sun-birds,By Capt. G.E.Shelley 1876-1880

If you want to see real-life photos of pectoral tufts, please check Oriental Bird Images Loten’s sunbird4 and Oriental Bird Images Loten’s sunbird12

I guess we have been describing the male for a while now. Let me introduce the female without further ado.female loten's sunbird

Photo Courtesy of  Satheesan.vn @ Thrissur,Kerala, Jun 2010

Well, she does not have the mesmerizing metallic hues.She wears a modest brown and yellow garb.However, she is the one who builds the nest and incubates the eggs.This drab color sure helps in camouflage while she is in the nest with vulnerable eggs and chicks.She lacks a faint white eyebrow (supercilium) of the very similar looking female purple sunbird.
long-billed sunbird nest

Photo Courtesy of  Arunachala Birds @ Arunachala, Tamil Nadu

This particular nest is hanging from the bamboo rafters of an open air cafe off the Perumbakkam Road south of Arunachala, Tamil Nadu.I have circled the tiny female bird peeking out of her hanging nest. The nest is built of dead leaves, wood chips etc. held together by spider webs.The young are fed by both parents.The nesting season lasts from November to March in India, February to May in Sri Lanka.

loten's sunbird male eclipse

Photo Courtesy of  Satheesan.vn @ Thrissur,Kerala, Jun 2010

It is clear that this bird is not a female. Females have plain pale yellow bellies and plain grey-brown backs and wings.This guy has a streak of dark metallic violet from chin to belly (reminds me of a beard).There are also patches and hints of metallic sheen on wings, cheek etc.So what bird is this? This could be a juvenile male who may be transitioning into adult male plumage.There is an alternate view that this could be a male in eclipse plumage i.e. non-breeding plumage.However, the existence of an eclipse plumage is debated due to the lack of specimens in evidence.

I personally feel that there might not be an eclipse plumage as there is no drastic change in weather or habitat in south India. However, the male may change to more drab coloration for camouflage and thus protection from predators post breeding season. Anyway, I could not collect solid evidence in literature available to me, to convince myself that there exists an eclipse plumage for these birds.

vagrant loten's sunbird

Photo Courtesy of  Gautam Basu @ Rambha, Lake Chilika, Orissa, Jan 2010

The Loten’s sunbirds are endemic to peninsular India and Sri Lanka. The main region in India is along the Western Ghats and into the southern peninsula. In the southern peninsula,they range from Tenkasi in south till roughly above Bangalore in the center. They are found along the eastern side of the peninsula till about Guntur. There are scattered records from central India and into the northern Eastern Ghats north until Orissa. The image above, captured in Orissa is a proof of the same.

1.The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma Birds By Eugene W. Oates,1889
2.Loten’s Sunbird page @ Wikipedia
3.Loten’s Sunbird page @ xeno-canto

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