The fork-tailed sunbird

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Ye Shangqing  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A male fork-tailed sunbird (top) and a female are seen in these two photos in Litchi Park, Futian District.

Fork-tailed Sunbird

Scarcely 10cm in length, the Fork-tailed sunbird (Aethopyga christinae) is one of the most astonishing yet rarely seen birds in Shenzhen. With a clear sexual dymorphism (meaning that males look different from the females), male sunbirds are a delight to witness, thanks to their striking coloration patterns. Their feathers display a fantastic luster in the sunlight.


The top of the head is covered with iridescent metallic blue feathers; the face is black and the throat is in a brilliant red shade. The chest is yellow and the back feathers and wings are olive green, as it is the entire body of their female counterparts. The forked tail is blue-green on the top and striped black and white on the bottom. In a nutshell, a complete beauty.


These birds are very small and quite fast, making them difficult to follow, but their eating behavior gives rise to a rare time window for observation, if you are patient enough. They will use their curved pointy beaks to reach the nectar of the big colorful flowers found in just about every city park.


Fork-tailed sunbirds can lay up to four eggs per clutch during the spring months, which are incubated by the female alone. However, males help to build nests and feed the chicks.


Although they are not considered an endangered or even a vulnerable species, their numbers are rapidly decreasing mainly due to habitat loss. Therefore, we need to take care of our natural environment so this amazing species keeps enjoying a safe haven in our beloved Shenzhen.