Sunbird – Olive-backed

Posted By: GetawayAdmin on Apr 22, 2014 in Things to See and Do around Cairns, Uncategorised

Olive-backed Sunbird

Nectarinia jugularis

One of the delights of a lush garden in tropical Queensland, apart from the colourful butterflies, is the sight of an Olive-backed Sunbirds flitting about among the flowers, probing them with its gracefully curved bill, often while hovering. Equally enchanting is stumbling across its strange, suspended nest, hanging from a twig or part of a building by a long, thin cord of grass and fibres. Sunbirds are often rather confiding when nesting in people’s gardens, allowing a close approach if you are quiet.


The Olive-backed Sunbird is a small honeyeater-like bird with a distinctive down-curved bill. On the male, the head is yellowish-olive with a yellow supercilium and a yellow moustachial stripe. The upperparts are also yellowish-olive except for the tail, which is black with a white tip. An iridescent dark-bluish or dark-violet gorget extends from the chin to the upper breast; the rest of the unnderbody is bright yellow. The upperwing is dark brown and the underwing is yellowish white with brownish grey flight feathers. The bill is black and the feet dark grey. The female appears similar but a little paler, and lacks the iridescent gorget, being wholly yellow underneath.

Similar Species

There are no similar species within the Olive-backed Sunbird’s range.


In Australia the Olive-backed Sunbird is widespread in much of coastal Queensland (mostly within 25 kilometres of the coast), and in a few parts its range extends inland into the Great Divide. Outside Australia, the species also occurs in coastal New Guinea and parts of South East Asia.


Olive-backed Sunbirds usually occur in woodlands and at the margins of mangroves or rainforests, and they are also often recorded in parks and gardens. Their preferred habitats usually support a range of plants which have nectar-bearing flowers.


The Olive-backed Sunbird forages among the foliage and flowers of trees and shrubs. It gleans invertebrates from the leaves and flowers, and probes flowers with its long, curved bill to take nectar, often hovering to do so. They sometimes pluck insects from spider webs.


The Olive-backed Sunbird builds a long, spindle-shaped nest that is suspended from a branch or from an overhanging part of a building such as an eave, verandah or clothesline via a long cord made of entwined grass, fibres and bark. Two pale-grey eggs are laid which are incubated by the female. The nestlings are brooded by the female only, and fed mostly by her.

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