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Tanzania, Ngorongoro conservation area (1 Viewer)

jaaserud

Member
Hi
Being inexperienced with sunbirds, I find the female White-breasted Sunbird (Cinnyris talatala) as most likely id. Based on the photos and the location, a fellow birder thinks it is a juvenile Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird (Anthreptes orientalis).

The photos were taken on the crater rim at 1700-1800 masl on 1.9.2019 in garden/park-area around a lodge. The lodge is surrounded by dense tropical forest.

Thanks, Jostein
 

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Hi Jostein,

White-bellied Sunbird is from further south in Africa, and is only found in the very south of Tanzania.

Your fellow birder is right.
 
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Hi MacNara,

Thanks for your valued answer. I find the bill of the Anthreptes in general to be quite a bit shorter and straighter than in my photos?
 
I agree this doesn’t look like Violet Backed. The bill, as you say, and they tend to have a bit of a pale eyebrow (females and youngsters). I would say your bird is a young bird by the short looking tail. If I saw this down here in the south I’d call it White Bellied juvenile, but really not sure what options are available up there....
 
The features that struck me from your photos were the violet upper tail and the yellowish vent which are shown in the books and photos I have taken for Western Violet-backed Sunbird. The tail, I think, would be good also for Eastern, but I think the vent should be white.

I've never seen female or juvenile White-bellied, but I didn't think they show this tail colouration, and I though they should be duskier below (on the throat especially). But having looked at some online photos, I can see that the apparent bill size and lack of a brow do indeed look better for White-bellied.

On the other hand, I have photos of Western Violet-backed where the bill looks longer and more curved than in others - and I also wonder if the bill seeming so long is due to a photo artefact in both your shots.

I also agree that the female of both species usually has a white brow, but I'm not sure about the juvenile - I have photos ID'd as Western juvenile with no clear brow. but the Western juvenile is all yellow below.

Western Violet-backed, as you can see from the attached distribution map from Cornell's Birds of the World (online, formerly Handbook of Birds of the World) is in or near the Ngorongoro-Serengeti area (with a disjunct distribution either side of that location). But the map of the distribution of White-bellied from the same source has it nowhere near Ngorongoro. So, if it is White-bellied, then it's well out of range, so it would be a great find. But I guess it's not impossible that it should have strayed with all the weird weather we are seeing all over the world these days.

Hopefully someone who can be more definite will see this thread and sort the problem out.

Attachment 1: Western Violet-backed
Attachment 2: White-bellied = White-breasted
 

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Thank you for sharing your knowledge! I hate to say it, but couldn't a juvenile Variable Sunbird (Cinnyris venustus), an unusual dull specimen, be a possibility? Especially the bill size/shape and also the general appearance/posture seem to be typical Cinnyrus. The Variable S. species was abundant around the lodge. Certainly most of the females I saw had more yellow underparts and greenish back and wings.
 
Thank you for sharing your knowledge! I hate to say it, but couldn't a juvenile Variable Sunbird (Cinnyris venustus), an unusual dull specimen, be a possibility? Especially the bill size/shape and also the general appearance/posture seem to be typical Cinnyrus. The Variable S. species was abundant around the lodge. Certainly most of the females I saw had more yellow underparts and greenish back and wings.

I think you may be right! The breast of the bird is clearly in very bright light, so it could be that what appears white is actually yellow. And the tail colour fits also. Looking at a few photos I have of Variable female (or possibly juvenile), she (falkensteini) isn't as yellow as the books show, especially the upper breast can be whiter.

Well done!
 
Yes, nicely done! Fits perfectly I think. The Variables down here are all distinctly yellow, so forgetting pale individuals exist my traitor brain had already ruled it out...
 
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