Singing in the bath

Now that I’ve started paying close attention to what is going on in our garden, I’m always amazed at the interesting things I see. For a while now I have been trying to take some photos of the Sunbirds that live in our garden. I’m pretty sure they live here, because the whole day I can hear them, as they move around our garden.

Male Greater Double-collared Sunbird (Image source: Mike Goulding/Wikipedia)

In Sunbirds, as is the case with a lot of bird species, the males are really brightly coloured, while the female birds are brown. So unless you see the male bird, it is quite difficult to identify the species. After looking at my bird book, and consulting with my friend David (an ecologist, who knows his birds), what we have visiting our garden is probably the Greater Double-collared Sunbird.

According to Wikipedia:

The Greater Double-collared Sunbird is usually seen singly or in pairs. Its flight is fast and direct on short wings. It lives mainly on nectar from flowers, but takes some fruit, and, especially when feeding young, insects and spiders. It has the habit of hovering in front of webs to extract spiders. It can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, but usually perches to feed most of the time.

The call is a hard chut-chut-chut, and the song is a high pitched jumble of tweets and twitters, richer than the calls of the Southern Double-collared Sunbird.

My bird book says that the Greater Double-collared Sunbird may gather into small flocks. I have seen them feeding on the nectar of hibiscus and other flowers, but had no idea that they ate insects and spiders (of which we have lots) too.

The other day I was sitting in my office, and I realized that for the past couple of days I heard them on our roof in the late afternoon. I went out with a camera and this is what I saw. This little “family” of Sunbirds (what looks like a couple of juveniles and an adult female bird), were taking turns to bath in the water that had collected in our gutter since the last rainstorm. All the while they were tweeting and warbling away, and really enjoying the chance to have a quick bath.

Sunbird singing at the top of its voice

Soaked after splashing about

Shaking itself dry like a dog

Another little bird comes up for air

Adult female Sunbird


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Categories: Nature/Environment, Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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18 Comments on “Singing in the bath”

  1. February 1, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    wow – awesome to be able to catch them bathing 🙂
    We have seen the scarlet chested sunbird around our cottages quite a bit lately – always at the “pride of the cape” flowers

    • February 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

      Yes, it was lucky to see them doing something interesting. It was a hot day, so they were probably trying to cool off too. I often see them feeding, but usually when the light has been too bad to take a good photo.

      Have just looked up the scarlet chested sunbird – what a stunning looking bird!

  2. February 1, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    Oh! Gorgeous photos! Well done for capturing them on camera, Lisa. Birds are so entertaining, aren’t they? I love it when they visit our garden too, though I haven’t spotted anything as exotic as these sunbirds here.

    • February 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      Thanks. I’m glad that I got some okay photos. My hands were shaking and they weren’t keeping still long enough for me to focus properly.

      We lived quite close to the mountains here, so the birds that one finds in the Fynbos there, often come down to the gardens.

  3. February 1, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    These are my new favorite birds – since they eat spiders. 🙂

    You have some good shots here…you got close!

    • February 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

      Thanks! Yes, I agree with you about the spider-eating. Especially after finding another Brown Button spider close to the house.

  4. February 1, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    We have GIANT crows. I’m scared to get too close.

    • February 1, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

      Crows are scary. We used to have a lot here too, but thankfully most of them have moved on.

  5. February 1, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Great post, Lisa! Cute title–fabulous photos! Love it all, my friend!

  6. February 1, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    What a brilliant bird bath for them! Cute photos and descriptions, Lisa – they are lovely birds. The colours of the male sunbird are magnificent.
    Sunshine xx

    • February 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

      Thanks! Makes me wonder if we shouldn’t set up a bird bath somewhere in the garden. The other day I saw doves drinking out of the dog’s water bowl.

      It isn’t fair that the male birds are so pretty, and the females are so drab looking!

  7. February 1, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    how cute!! you are learning lots of interesting things in your garden!!

  8. February 2, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    What a beautiful and interesting bird. Your photos are wonderful! Great they were having so much fun in there.

    • February 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

      Watching bird behaviour is quite fascinating. Difficult getting those action shots of them though. Especially, these little sunbirds which flit around constantly.

  9. Fidel Hart
    February 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    I learned something new today. I did not know that female birds often aren’t as colorful as males. And I also didn’t know that there really was a genus of birds known as songbirds. Can’t help but say it and think of the line in ‘Stairway To Heaven’ about a “…songbird who sings.”

    Nice post!

    • February 2, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

      Colourful male birds vs drab looking female birds: So different from the human species, isn’t it?! 🙂 It’s actually a good idea for a future post.

      The birds here are Sunbirds, which all belong to the same family (Nectariniidae), but there are 15 different genera (plural of genus) within that family, and multiple species under each genus. If I’ve got it right (I’m not an expert on birds) then you have the following:

      Class – Aves i.e. the birds
      Sub-order – Passeri (the songbirds)
      Family – Nectariniidae (the sunbirds)
      Genus – There are 15 of these
      Species – Multiple species under each Genus

      Basically . . . it’s complicated and there are lots of different Sunbirds and even more “songbirds”!

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