The Black-throated Sunbird Aethopyga saturata of Malaysia

14 Mar 2012   in Morphology-Develop., Sunbirds 1 Comment »
Contributed by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

The Black-throated Sunbird (Aethopyga saturata) is resident in N and NE Indian subcontinent, SE Tibet and SW China. In SE Asia it is found in parts of Myanmar, Tenasserim, Thailand, Indochina, Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia. In Malaysia the subspecies is wrayi (above), which according to Cheke, Mann & Allen (2001), is distinguished by “very little yellow on rump; breast sooty-black with yellowish tips to feathers. Belly, flanks and vent greyish olive-green; less red streaking on breast than petersi.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS had a rare opportunity to study the male Malaysian subspecies on 13th January 2012 when he was in Cameron Highlands at an elevation of 1,500m ASL. The habitat was montane forest but the area where he encountered and photographed the male Black-throated Sunbird was under secondary growth with patches of cultivated gardens.

“This is a lovely, friendly sunbird of the highlands. I love it when birds show trust and come near – these came to within 2 meters of us, and I could not focus with my long lens at times,” wrote Amar. One female and two adult males were foraging in the same location. They were feeding on the nectar of canna flowers, piercing the base of the flowers to get at the nectar. Amar had the opportunity to study the adult males in detail.

According to Amar, “Although the bird is called “black-throated”, the adult male has a large metallic violet gorget (patch on the throat) (above left). Note how the throat looks dark (top) unless seen end on in good light. The metallic violet head and neck with delightful deep maroon-red mantel can be seen in the above image (right). Tail and feet are shown in the images below.”

Cheke, R. A., Mann, C. F. & Allen, R. (2001). Sunbirds: A guide to the sunbirds, flowerpeckers, spiderhunters and sugarbirds of the world. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

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  • One Response to "The Black-throated Sunbird Aethopyga saturata of Malaysia"

    1. Daisy O'Neill says:

      Hi Amar,

      Lovely observation images.

      Iridecence plumages of sunbirds when captured in good lighting angles are delightful moments in photography and you’ve done it!
      Amazing what can be seen and discover that never got shown in field guides.

      Lighting plays tricks on photography and often deceive in bird identification of some of those more difficult species.




    1. An eventful trip to Cameron Highlands (roadkill and accident notwithstanding) - Page 5
    2. An eventful trip to Cameron Highlands (roadkill and accident notwithstanding) - Page 6 -
    3. An eventful trip to Cameron Highlands (roadkill and accident notwithstanding) - Page 8 -

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