Brown-throated Sunbird

Male Brown-throated Sunbird

Name: Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis)

Classification: Animalia > Chordata > Aves > Passeriformes > Nectarinidae > Anthreptes > malacensis

Habitat: Secondary forest, Parkland, Low-density urban, Urban

Description: Like many other sunbirds, Brown-throated Sunbirds are small, brightly coloured and sexually dimorphic birds with curved beaks adapted to drinking nectar from flowers. Male Brown-throated Sunbirds are particularly remarkable, with iridescent green, blue and purple upperparts, a brown throat and a bright yellow belly. In contrast, female Brown-throated Sunbirds are much less brightly coloured, with uniform yellow undersides, olive upperparts, a broad yellow eye-ring and a relatively straight bill. Like many other sunbirds as well, the Brown-throated Sunbird is often mistaken for a hummingbird due to its small size, bright colouration, curved beak and limited ability to hover, though it must be noted that hummingbirds are only found in the Americas (i.e. the New World) and are from a completely different Order altogether (Order: Apodiformes).

Female Brown-throated Sunbird vs. Female Olive-backed Sunbird: Owing to their similarities, it is often difficult to distinguish between the females of the Brown-throated Sunbird and the Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis). The key to telling them apart is to look at the eyes and the tail feathers. Female Brown-throated Sunbirds have a yellow eye-ring whereas female Olive-backed Sunbirds have a yellow supercilium (stripe running just above the eye). Additionally, Brown-throated Sunbirds have no white tail feathers whereas Olive-backed Sunbirds have white patches on its under-tail feathers, although it may not always be possible to see these feathers clearly. Although these distinguishing characteristics may be very subtle, a reasonably trained eye should easily be able to notice the difference given the right environmental conditions.

Characteristic Brown-throated Sunbird Olive-backed Sunbird
Pattern around eye Broad yellow eye-ring Yellow supercilium
Presence of white tail feathers? No Yes

Female Brown-throated Sunbird


Brown-throated Sunbird (Source:

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One thought on “Brown-throated Sunbird

  1. Pingback: Olive-backed Sunbird « The Birds of NUS

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