© SPIDERHUNTERS’ mascot Bird: Grey-Breasted Spiderhunter

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“I can’t think of a better way to introduce the sub-family of Spiderhunters (Arachnothera), under the huge family of Nectariniini, comprising of a worldwide 123 species, than by introducing Archibald- the mascot Grey-breasted Spiderhunter (A. modesta) to represent its eleven cousin species inclusive, that live in the Oriental zoographic region spanning from the sub-continent of India to the Philippines.

“In this ironical image (left), Archibald suspends not one but two life spiders – like medallions closest to its heart, embracing the arthropods’ name in earnest. Perhaps fearing one day, its lineage would be lost and infamously renamed for not living up to their names: for they have been observed to be spending most of their time, pollinating flowers and some, surviving as nectar robbers.

“It has to be some long time ago… maybe when spiders were aplenty in the forests wild, before the times of fruit and flower cultivation, that humans who first observed these birds hunting and feeding on spiders that their names became associated with.

“If that was so, I wonder when and where those spiderhunters first got their names. They, who have now successfully adapted to the ever changing environment and habitat depletion in the search of alternative food supply.

“Ranging from 13-22cm in size, these omnivorous creatures have thick, curved bills no less twice the length of their heads and have specialised tubular tongues to do the job of feeding on pollens and nectar blooms.

“The habitats of spiderhunters range from montane to lowlands, covering primary, secondary, dipterocarp, bamboo, swamp forests edge and degraded forests. Some of the species have also found their way to man-made gardens and plantations.

“Their plumages are by no means flamboyant nor shimmer iridescently under sunrays like sunbirds (Nectarinias) but generally, mainly dull, olive green above with white or yellow underneath and some with blackish streaks.

“Let’s have Archibald introduce its eleven cousins to readers while contemplating its cache of sushi spiders for tea. The Species of spiderhunters of the orient are:

” Bornean Spiderhunter A. everetti
Grey-breasted Spiderhunter A. modesta
Little Spiderhunter A. longirostra
Long-billed Spiderhunter A. robusta
Naked-faced Spiderhunter A. clarae luzonensis
Spectacled Spiderhunter A. flavigaster
Streaked Spiderhunter A. magna
Streaky –Breasted Spiderhunter A. affinis
Thick-billed Spiderhunter A. crassirostris
Whitehead’s Spiderhunter A. juliae
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter A. chrysogenys

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Copyright article and image:
Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund.

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