A rapid, scratchy whistle pierces the crisp morning air and I look outside to see him back on his favoured perch. This glorious male Malachite Sunbird is in full breeding colours now – complete with tail streamers – and he patrols his local patch vigorously. Lucky for me, the top of the Tarconanthus tree alongside our house is one of several ‘song posts’ he has staked out, and he returns every hour or so throughout the day.
From his lofty perch, this emerald beauty stretches out his neck and points his long bill skyward, in a striking balletic pose.
Now and again, he is accompanied by a female – less showy in olive and fawn – who is chased in speedy spirals of passion. There are likely to be a few females within his range, but they may also be checking out other possible suitors in adjacent territories.
It is midwinter now and aloes are in full flower in the gardens all around us. Sunbirds, white-eyes and weavers are drawn to the sweet nectar of these spectacular succulents, performing a vital pollination role in the process.
The females have probably made their purse-shaped nests already and will be laying soon.
Cape Robin Crescent, Vermont, Hermanus, South Africa. June 2014