Palestine Sunbird

The Palestine Sunbird (Cinnyris oseus), also known as the Northern Orange-tufted Sunbird, is a small passerine bird of the sunbird family which is found in parts of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. It is similar to the Orange-tufted Sunbird (Cinnyris bouvieri), found further south in Africa. It occurs in areas with high temperatures and dry climate from sea-level up to an altitude of 10,000 feet. It inhabits dry woodland, scrub, wadis, savannas, orchards and gardens and is common in towns in some areas.

The Middle Eastern subspecies C. o. oseus breeds from Israel and Jordan in the north, down through western Saudi Arabia to Yemen and Oman in the south. In recent decades it has colonized the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Some birds reach Lebanon and Syria in winter and it has bred in Lebanon. The African subspecies C. o. decorsei is found very locally in parts of Sudan, north-west Uganda, the Central African Republic, north-east Democratic Republic of Congo and northern Cameroon.

The Palestine Sunbird is 3 to 4.75 inches long with a wingspan of 5.5 to 6.25 inches. Males have an average weight of 7.6 g and females weigh around 6.8 g. The bill is fairly long, black and curves downwards. The plumage of breeding males is mostly dark but appears glossy blue or green in the light. There are orange tufts at the sides of the breast which are hard to see except at close range. Females and juveniles are gray-brown above with pale underparts. Non-breeding males are similar but may retain some dark feathers. It has a high, fast, jingling song and various calls including a harsh alarm call.

The diet consists mainly of insects and nectar. The tongue is long and brush-tipped to extract nectar from flowers. The birds usually feed while perched beside a flower but they are also capable of hovering. The purse-like nest hangs from a branch in a tree or bush. It is made of leaves, grass and other plant material which is bound together with hair and spider webs and lined with wool and feathers. One to three smooth, glossy eggs are laid. These are somewhat variable in color; often white or gray with faint markings at the broader end. They are incubated for 13 to 14 days. The young are downy with an orange-red mouth and fledge after 14 to 21 days.

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