Beauty in my garden

Pamushana | December 2020

The beauty of nature is all around us, yet all too often we go racing off, far and wide, to see this beauty. In my case I just stepped out my back door, made a left turn and there, less than five metres away, was the nest of a scarlet-chested sunbird (Chalcomitra senegalensis).

The male of the species has a deep black colour to it and iridescent red chest and a small band of green. As per the case with many species of birds the females don’t have such vibrant plumage. They are a monogamous species and often use the same nest tree to build a fresh nest every year. From our observations of them in our garden, it would appear that the nest building is done by the female. It seems the male helps with collection of nest material (a lot of spiderwebs). The male is also responsible for the protection of the breeding territory, chasing away any unwanted intruders.

Typically the female lays one to three eggs and the incubation period is about two weeks. Once the eggs have hatched, the nesting period is between 15 to 20 days. It was over this period that we were able to watch the adults busy at work, feeding the chicks who eat a lot of insects.

It really was such a privilege to watch these birds in action, from the female building the nest to both of them feeding and looking after their youngsters, to waking up one morning to see an empty nest, and now watching the adults feeding the sub-adult youngsters.

In the photograph you can see the female getting ready to feed her very hungry chicks. It’s a non-stop job for the two parents, feeding the chicks a wide range of insects. By the looks of it, in this picture the meal was a spider or two.

It’s also worth taking note of the intricate detail that goes into the building of the nest. Just before she is ready to lay her eggs she will start adding extra features like lichen and leaves to add more camouflage.