Birding diaries

Of Sunbirds and Leafbirds

Well, every outing to Ganeshgudi (Old Magazine House camp) has something to offer, something new, and something to learn, a place that never disappoints any time of the year!

As I was hogging lunch in the afternoon in the dining area on top, the activity on the Helicteres isora or the Indian screw tree caught my attention. As I went closer to see, I could hear the familiar calling of the sunbirds hoping between the flowers sucking the nectar in peace. Shortly, I realized the female sunbird was the more aggressive of the two and was vociferously chasing away the male from a particular branch that had good number of flowers.

The male sunbird was being opportunistic and used to fly to the branch whenever the female sunbird was out of sight and used to fly out being chased by the female sunbird again. Well, the male had other branches with flowers but none matched this particular branch in the tree. This continued till about dusk and finally their activity ceased for the day.

Next morning, much before the sunbirds came to the tree, there were a new bigger couple sucking the nectar, highly camouflaged and enjoying their morning sugary breakfast, the Golden-fronted Leafbirds were there much before ample light had filtered down the dense canopy at Ganeshgudi.

This was my first sighting of these brilliantly camouflaged birds in open and at close quarters, I had only seen them either on the canopy or in between leaves in the mid portions of a tree making it extremely difficult to spot. I was thrilled on seeing the pair in action and here again that particular branch was occupied by the female and the male had to satisfy his tastes from the remaining flowers located sparsely on other branches.

Soon, the sunbird couple came over and were promptly chased away by the leafbirds from that particular branch and also from the other by both the male and female leafbirds. Despite repeated futile attempts, the sunbirds hardly got opportunities to get closer to the rich nectar yielding flowers. Of the leafbird couple, the male leafbird was the aggressor chasing the sunbird couple long distances away and in turn was being chased away by the female leafbird from that particular branch.

Soon, there were more leafbirds coming for the flowers and more sunbirds but none were able to come near that particular branch that was being guarded by the female leafbird. All along, I never realized the time fly by as it was almost 2 hours being engrossed in their chases and antics. In between, there were the White-rumped and the Black-throated Munia’s, Orioles, White-eye’s, Woodpeckers, Warblers frittering all around the place.

With so much activity all around and with loss of time, I moved away bewildered and amazed at the behavioral patterns of nature to the more defined breakfast table to satisfy my taste buds :)