Olive-backed Sunbird

Female Olive-backed Sunbird in a Pulai tree

Name: Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis)

Classification: Animalia > Chordata > Aves > Passeriformes > Nectarinidae > Nectariniajugularis

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

Description: A small but ubiquitous bird, the Olive-backed Sunbird is one of the most abundant birds in Singapore. With its bright colouration, long curved beak, small size and limited ability to hover, the Olive-backed Sunbird is often mistaken for a hummingbird, though of course hummingbirds are completely unrelated to sunbirds and are only found in the Americas. Like other sunbirds, the Olive-backed Sunbird also exhibits sexual dimorphism, with the adult male having an iridescent deep blue patch of feathers around the throat and a barely discernible patch of bright orange pectoral feathers. The rest of the male’s underside is bright yellow and the upperside is olive-green. The female Olive-backed Sunbird lacks the iridescent blue throat patch and has many patches of white on the underside of its tail.

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 (Anthreptes malacensis) and the Olive-backed Sunbird. 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

Male Olive-backed Sunbird


Olive-backed Sunbird (Source: xeno-canto.org)

Distribution Map:

Widespread all over NUS.

Photo Gallery:


One thought on “Olive-backed Sunbird

  1. Pingback: Brown-throated Sunbird « The Birds of NUS

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