Msasani Peninsula, Dar es Salaam: August 22, 2010

One of east Africa’s largest port cities, Dar es Salaam is actually recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) as well. Aside from being home to a wide variety of avifauna, the coastal scrub and wetlands scattered throughout the city are also part of a critical migratory corridor, especially for shorebirds. Aimee and I recently moved neighborhoods within the city, leaving the wetlands of Upanga for the arid scrub of Msasani Peninsula. Instead of driving past Grey Herons and Greater Flamingos on the way to work each dawn, I’ll now walk under trees harboring Speckled Mousebirds, Red-Cheeked Cordon-Bleus, and a variety of sunbirds.

The Collared Sunbird was my first species observed of this diverse and beautiful family of birds, and I have since noted two other species regularly in the gardens of the peninsula: Purple-Banded and Scarlet-Chested Sunbirds. Coming from the neotropics, where I learned to bird, I recognize sunbirds as the fast-moving, iridescent-plumaged, nectar-feeding cousins of the hummingbird. Also capable of hover flight for brief moments, sunbirds really act more like flowerpiercers or honeycreepers than hummingbirds, and with their decurved bills they usually feed on the nectar of flowers while gripping along their stalks as opposed to hovering in the air in front of the blossom. As you can judge from the photographs above, most species of sunbirds are dimorphic with the males often being gorgeously colored.


  1. is not collared. looks like variable sunbird to me.

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    I agree that the male of both species looks very similar. This particular bird, I remember, was with a female Collared Sunbird, which appears quite distinct from the female Variable Sunbird. Both sexes were regularly observed in my yard in Dar. I don't have the Birds of East Africa field guide with me, but it's worth review the distribution map for both species, too.

    What are your thoughts?


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