Sun bird

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Sun bird
Sun bird

Sun bird

Order : Passerines (Passeriformes)
Subordination : Songbirds (passeri)
Superfamily : Sylvioidea
Family : Jays (Leiothrichidae)
Genre : Leiothrix
Type : Sun bird
Scientific name
Leiothrix lutea
( Scopoli , 1786)
Leiothrix lutea -London Zoo, England-8a.jpg

The sun bird ( Leiothrix lutea ), also China Nightingale called, is a bird art of the genus Leiothrix from the family of Häherlinge (Leiothrichidae). Its distribution extends through the Himalayas and extends eastward over large parts of China . The species was naturalized in Japan and Hawaii . The species is not threatened and mostly relatively common, but can be rare locally.


The sunbird is about the size of a sparrow with a body length of 14-15 cm . It weighs between 18 and 28 g. The coral-red beak with a black base, the yellow throat, the orange breast and the yellow wing pattern, whose lively colors stand out clearly from the rest of the olive-gray plumage, are striking. The iris is brown to carmine red. The legs are greenish yellow to light brown.

In adult males of the nominate form , the yellowish olive of the parting on the nape gradually merges into the light gray of the rest of the upper side. Reins and eye region are yellowish beige, the ear covers light gray beige. The stripe of beard is blackish olive on its lower edge and becomes much lighter towards the ear covers and sides of the neck. The lively yellow of the chin and throat merges into a rusty orange towards the chest, which in turn turns yellow on the middle chest and then runs into the olive of the stomach, while the flanks are tinted gray. The feathers of the upper wing are, for the most part, lined with vivid yellow with a chestnut-red spot at the base of the wings of the hand. The outer arm wings have a yellow spot at the base. The very long upper tail-coverts have white lace hems. The control springs are glossy black.

The female is slightly smaller than the male with a green-olive crown, gray ear covers and a smaller chestnut-red spot on the wings of the hand. Young birds resemble the female, but have a lighter beak and a rather gray crown. The underside is olive gray with a whitish center.


The very variable singing (audio sample) is a long and complex verse made up of relatively fast, fluting sounds and is vaguely reminiscent of a blackcap . A second variant is shorter with a limited number of syllables, a third is quieter and less melodic. It can be heard by the male during courtship when he is chasing the female.

The calls include a throaty, slightly nasal scream or ssierk (audio sample), which is lined up in a fast, rattling sequence even in the event of threat or excitement (audio sample). A short, hard zip or a harsh humming ssriti-ssriti-ssriti-… as an alarm call are also described.

Geographic variation

The southeast subspecies L. l. kwangtungensis is similar to the nominate form , but has a more yellowish apex and a more olive-tinted upper side. The face, sides of the neck and underside are also more yellowish. There is an orange spot at the base of the arm wings. The western subspecies L. l. kumaiensis is greener on the vertex and has a less extensive yellowish tint than the nominate form. While the bases of the hand wings are only chestnut colored to a limited extent, the outer hems of the inner hand wings are orange-red at the tip. The subspecies L. l. calipyga , which occurs from the central Himalayas to Myanmar, resembles kumaiensis , but is more yellowish on top. In addition, the orange-red hems of the inner wings take up the entire length of the feather. L. l. yunnanensis resembles kumaiensis on the upper side , but has a whitish rein and eye area. The chin and chest are lighter and the wing has no orange or reddish tint.

Habitat and walks

The sun bird inhabits dense undergrowth in relatively open, evergreen deciduous, pine or mixed forests. The species can also be found in secondary vegetation, scrubland, overgrown cultivated land, tea plantations or bamboo stands. Even bushes of the convertible rose - an invasive neophyte in the Old World - are accepted as habitats. The altitude distribution is mostly between 900 and 2400 m. The species can also be found more rarely from 75 m or up to an altitude of 3400 m. The species is mostly a resident bird, but in some places it migrates to lower elevations in winter. In Bhutan, for example, cool, temperate deciduous and coniferous forests at altitudes of 1800–3200 m are settled in Bhutan, while most winter records between the beginning of November and the end of April come from warm temperate deciduous forests at altitudes of 1000–2800 m.


The sunbird's diet consists of invertebrates , berries and seeds such as those of grass or rhus . Animal food can include adults and larvae of butterflies , hymenoptera and two-winged birds, but also snails , arachnids and centipedes . Captive birds showed a definite predilection for spiders and soft caterpillars, while they scorned hard beetles, legless larvae, and very small insects for food. At best, ants were taken in when they were munching .

The food is usually searched for with hasty movements in the lower bush layer or on the ground, whereby often smaller flocks of four to six, sometimes up to 20 birds come together. Occasionally the species also joins mixed associations. Sometimes the birds climb trees and collect insects or berries, hang upside down on branches or make short catch flights.


Sunbird egg

The breeding season of the sunbird is between April and October. Singing males are found in Bhutan from mid-May to August. There are several annual broods.

The nest is a regular or round oval bowl of variable depth and strength, which is between 60 cm and 1.50 m, more rarely up to 4.5 m high in bushes or bamboo stands. It consists of fine and coarse blades of grass, withered bamboo and other leaves, skeletonized leaves, moss, lichen and fine pieces of rattan . The nesting trough is padded with fine roots, grass, palm fibers, tendrils or fern stalks. The nesting material is brought in by the male and built in by the female.

The clutch consists of 3–4, more rarely 5 eggs, which are speckled red-brown to umbra-brown, red-brown to purple speckled and provided with light purple stripes or clouds on a blue to greenish or whitish green, rarely also white background. The eggs are incubated by both parents for 11½-14 days, of which the female usually has the greater share. The nestling period lasted between 9 and 12 days in captivity, during which the young were looked after by both parents.


Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l Collar et al., 2007, see literature.
  2. David Edwards: XC65071 · Red-billed Sunbird · Leiothrix lutea . Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  3. Mathias Ritschard: XC21929 · Red-Sun Bird · Leiothrix lutea . January 27, 2006. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  4. Bernard BOUSQUET: XC140091 Red-billed sun bird Leiothrix lutea . June 26, 2013. Retrieved November 3, 2019.

Web links

Commons : Sun bird ( Leiothrix lutea )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files