Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology

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Sunbirds hover at flowers of Salvia and Lycium

Petra Wester


Sunbirds usually perch when visiting flowers for nectar and only rarely hover. Except for three studies of sunbirds visiting introduced plants in South Africa and India as well as a native plant in Cameroon, there have been no quantitative studies of sunbird hovering behaviour. Here I present detailed observations of foraging behaviour in two sunbird species (Malachite Sunbird Nectarinia famosa and Southern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris chalybeus) at flowers of three Salvia species (Salvia africana-lutea, S. lanceolata and S. africana-caerulea; Lamiaceae) and one natural hybrid as well as Lycium afrum (Solanaceae) in South Africa. The birds not only perched, but also hovered (up to 28% of total visits) and sometimes hover-clasped (up to 3%). Other birds only rarely (Karoo Prinia Prinia maculosa) or never hovered during flower visits. These observations indicate that the foraging behaviour of specialist passerine nectarivorous birds overlaps with that of hummingbirds more than was previously thought.

OSTRICH 2013, 84(1): 27–32

AJOL African Journals Online