Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Cinnyris jugularis (Linnaeus, 1766)

Species:C. jugularis
Common Names:Olive-backed Sunbird
Status:Common resident


Found throughout Singapore and its offshore islands.

General Biology

These are attractive small birds with the males having colourful plumage for sexual display. In particular, they have orange pectoral tufts that are displayed during courtship. They can be commonly seen taking leaf baths during hot days after the garden is sprayed with water. When not foraging, they indulge in comfort behaviour, preening their feathers and stretching they wngs and legs. The Olive-backed Sunbirds are prey to various predatory birds and it has been recorded to be a victim of the Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina).

Commonly build their nests attached to the branches of potted plants and other structures like wind chines found along the corridors of high-rise apartments and even around a light bulb. They even make use of blue-coloured synthetic material whenever available. They have been known to recycle their nests for up to seven times. On the outside the nest looks rather untidy with a long tail, looking like a mass of dried leaves but inside, the egg chamber is comfortably lined with fluff, details can be seen HERE. Despite such camouflage, it is regularly attacked by the Long-tailed Macaque and Black-naped Oriole.


Basically a nectar feeder, taking nectar from flowers with the aid of its long tongue - Heliconia (Heliconia spp.), Torch Ginger (Etlingera elator), Saraca (Saraca thaipingensis), Peacock Flower or Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), Firecracker Plant (Russelia equisetiformis), Jambu (Syzygium sp.), Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra), Lantana camara ‘Hybrida’ and various mistletoe plants. The sunbird has been observed to hover before the flowers of Common Snakeweed (Stachytarpheta indica) in order to sip on the nectar.  It has also been known to rob nectar from Turk's Turban (Malvaviscus arboreus), Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) and Episcia cupreata ‘Acajou’. It also takes small insects and spiders, especially when feeding chicks.

In taking nectar and insects, this sunbird has the ability to hover above when there is not structure for it to perch on.

Life Cycle

The female collects nesting materials and builds the nest, the male will be around, calling or singing. A clutch of 1-3 eggs are laid, incubated by the female for 11-16 days. The chicks are looked after by both adults for 13-16 days. Immediately after feeding the chicks, the adults will remove their faecal sacs.

Ecological Role

It takes nectar from flowers and in the process helps in the pollination. With the semi-parasitic mistletoe plants, taking nectar and fruits similarly help pollinate the flowers and spread the seeds.


Wang, L. K. 2011. Sunbirds. Pp. 472. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors). Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Editions Didier Millet, Singapore. 552 pp.

Wang, L.K. & Hails, C.J. 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1–179, Singapore.

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