I found this male Loten’s Sunbird in my garden the other day with spider in its mouth. The Loten’s Sunbird or Long-billed Sunbird, Cinnyris lotenius (formerly placed in the genus Nectarinia), is one of a group of very small Old World passerine birds which feed largely on nectar. Sunbirds will also take insects, especially when feeding young and Loten’s Sunbird is possibly more insectivorous than other sympatric species. Their flight is fast and direct on their short wings.
Long bill separates this from the sympatric Purple Sunbird. The wings are browner and the maroon breast band is visible on the male under good lighting. The call is distinctive and they are also very active often bobbing their head while foraging.
The song of the male is a long repeated wue-wue-wue… with the last notes accelerated. The males may sing from the tops of bare trees or telegraph wires. Loten’s Sunbird is a resident breeder that is locally common in forest and cultivation in India and Sri Lanka. Two eggs are laid in a suspended nest in a tree. The bag of webs, bark and caterpillar frass.
Loten’s Sunbirds are small, only 12-13 cm long. They have long down-curved bills and brush-tipped tubular tongues, both adaptations to their nectar feeding. The bill lengths vary across populations with long bills found on the east of Peninsular India and in Sri Lanka.
The adult male is mainly glossy purple with a grey-brown belly. It is similar to Purple Sunbird, but is larger, has a longer sickle-shaped bill, and a different belly colour.
The eclipse male has yellow-grey upperparts, darker than Purple Sunbird, and a yellow breast with a blue central streak extending to the belly. The existence of an eclipse plumage in the adult male has however been questioned. The female has yellow-grey upperparts and yellowish underparts, but lacks Purple’s faint supercilium. The call is a buzzy zwick zwick.
Found only in peninsular India and Sri Lanka. The main region is along the Western Ghats and into the southern peninsula. There are scattered records from central India and into the northern Eastern Ghats near Orissa. Race hindustanicus is found in India while the nominate race is found in Sri Lanka.