By Pompie Burger
Marico Sunbird, Cinnyris mariquensis
Roberts No 779
Looking at the names of the various sunbirds occurring in Africa, such as the Splendid, Superb, Beautiful and Shining Sunbirds, it is small wonder they are classified among the most beautiful small birds in the world.
The Marico Sunbird is no exception, especially because of its attractive iridescent green garment with the wide purple-maroon breast-band fringed by a thin blue line at the top.
These birds are often seen in birding parties in the company of the Scarlet-chested and White-bellied Sunbirds.
During a visit to Susuwe Game Park we once had the good fortune of seeing the Markhamia trees in full bloom. A whole battalion of these sunbirds were having a feast, gulping down the tasteful nectar of the flowers.
I became so carried away by their activities that I didn’t even notice a group of elephants passing less than 20 metres from where we were standing!
My first effort to photograph Marico Sunbirds was in our garden when our Aloe littoralis – an aloe that is abundant in and around Windhoek – was flowering.
This gave me the opportunity to sit in peace and quiet waiting for the sunbirds to do their nectar-collecting rounds with their long curved bills.
Unfortunately, when they do arrive, they don’t sit on the flowers for hours, so you have to be quick and shoot at speed, otherwise you’ll miss out on these fleeting excercises.
The sunbirds’ look-alike counterpart in the Americas, the colibri, are classified in a totally different family. Colibri feed exclusively on the wing and therefore have rather small, rudimentary feet.
The distribution of Marico Sunbirds in Namibia is quite extensive, with the exception of the southern and dry western parts of the country. Their favourite flowers are produced by Acacia erubescens, Peltophorum africanum, the Kniphofia and Erythrina spp, and all the aloes. Apparently they supplement their junk-food diet of nectar with wholesome insects.
About the author:
Based in Windhoek, Pompie Burger is an orthopaedic surgeon whose part-time passion is photography, in particular wildlife, and specifically birds. This regularly takes him to the most remote corners of the country, resulting in riveting images and articles.
Pompie is the author and photographer of the coffee table book Birds of Namibia, which was published in 2008. The book contains articles and photographs which attest to the insight and knowledge of an accomplished observer.
Read more of his articles in our Birding Section.
This article appeared in the September ‘06 edition of Travel News Namibia.