During a visit to Ndumo GR late in April I was hoping to connect with Neergaard's sunbird
, Cinnyris neergaardi
, that has been eluding me for some time now. One of the guides that I used during my stay suggested that the sunbird would have moved on to other seasonally preferred habitats. This sunbird is endemic to southern Africa. It is classified near-threatened largely due to forest destruction which has caused its range to contract. Generally it is uncommon in south-eastern Mozambique, with a localised population in the far south of the country marginally extending into KwaZulu-Natal and it was with some optimism that I continued to look for this fringe population of the species.
This sunbird is small, about the size of a collared sunbird. Because of its habit of feeding off small nectar sources in the upper parts of the forest canopy and its dark colours, they are easily missed. Fortunately they respond to a sound byte of their call. After many attempts I was successful to lure two juvenile males close enough to get photographs of them. Like most very small birds, they are never still and they don’t hang about in the same area for long.
The nest is typically placed in a tree about 4-6 metres above ground, consistent with this sunbird’s preference for the upper reaches of the forest tops. The oval-shaped structure is built by the female; the nest having a side entrance concealed by a hanging flap. The use of old-man's-beard lichen, orchid tendrils, bark and leaves bound with spider web provide natural camouflage. The nest is further concealed by placing it behind a dense clump of old-man's beard lichen or the hanging roots of an orchid, making it very difficult to spot so high up. Even while knowing what to look for, one cannot be sure outside of the breeding season that you have located a nest as these structures are marvels of subterfuge.