Monday, 19 September 2016

Bird comparison: Purple Sunbird and Loten's Sunbird

Many a time we come across bird with little differences - that tend to confuse us, the birders. Well the birds are different and different in many a ways but to declare - that bird is so and so is always met with raised eyebrows. To top it all in regards to these birds the range overlaps. The Purple sunbird is found in the entire subcontinent - where as the Loten's sunbird is found in Southern India and Srilanka. So the problem is in South India where both the birds exist.

Like I said before the difference are many but it is the field that the problem resides - I have tabulated the differences in the end to but let us se the males of both species.

This bird is known with some more names - the Long-billed Sunbird or Maroon-breasted Sunbird. Well the differences are in the names itself. Whereas the Purple sunbird is fully purple - the Loten's Sunbird has brown chest downwards and this is separated with a maroon band. In field however, if the light is not good - or the bird is not in direct light - it is a small purple bird hopping from one branch to another - just like a purple sunbird. Next difference - the Loten's sunbird is slightly bigger than the purple sunbird - the Loten's being 13 cm and Purple being around 10 cm. Next the bill of Loten's sunbird is fairly bigger than the purple sunbird and for me this has been the greatest difference for me to confidently say - "there - Loten's Sunbird". You really have to see the bird once and compare to know what I am talking about. Next there is a Maroon band on the chest of Loten's that separates the purple of above the chest to browner below. Purple sunbird on the other hand is - what the name says - purple all over 😀. The final difference is if you are lucky to see the birds in mating season when they display their Pectoral Tufts - they are Yellow mixed with crimson in Loten's and pure yellow in Purple Sunbird. I have been lucky to see the Pectoral tufts display in Purple sunbird but have not the opportunity to see them in Loten's. Unfortunately I do not have any usable picture of the bird displaying them - but then I know my friend who has a great snap of a Purple Sunbird displaying the tufts. Will update when I get that picture. The bird calls too are different and am inserting them at the end for you to experience.

So - hopefully when you come across these birds next you will confidently snap your fingers and call out the name.

Loren's Sunbird. See the Maroon Band and brown below the band.

Loren's Sunbird. see the beak and compare with the purple sunbird below.

Purple Sunbird. Notice the fully purple body and the beak - definitely lesser curved and smaller.

Loten’s Sunbird Purple Sunbird Remarks
Size 13 cm 10 cm

Colour 1. Purple above and upto chest
2. Maroon band on chest
3. Brown below the band
Purple all the way in field and in poor light they both are small bundles of purple in a hurry to get somewhere…
Bill Longer and more curved. Comparatively smaller

Pectoral Tufts Yellow mixed with crimson Yellow


Ashu said...

Indeed very helpful for beginner like me to identify. Recently I clicked pic which I thought was Loten's but came out be Purple Sunbird.
Kudos to your blog Sir,full of lots of informative facts.

sujay said...

thanks a lot! helped me identify the purple sunbird today!

Satish Gogate said...

This is great comparison for Males. Can you have same for females as well? I am confused,as one female sunbird has build up nest in my terrace garden. Not able to find out which female is this?