Backyard BirdsUncategorized

Crimson Sunbirds

Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga siparajaCrimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja) - Female

Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja) - or Yellow-backed Sunbird - Female

The Crimson Sunbirds (Aethopyga siparaja) – or Yellow-backed Sunbird – is a tiny sunbird that occurs naturally in tropical south-eastern Asia from west-central India to Indonesia and the Philippines. They are typically found in forests and plantations.

This is the national bird of the Republic of Singapore.


Global Names:

Alternative Englich Names: Eastern Crimson Sunbirds, Yellow-backed Sunbird, Goulpourah Sunbird, Scarlet-throated Sunbird, Scarlet-breasted Sunbird

Spanish: Nectarina de Lomo Amarillo; Suimanga Siparaja; Italian:
Nettarinia dorsogiallo; French: Souimanga siparaja; German: Scharlachnektarvogel or Karmesinnektarvogel; Czech: strdimil karmínovoprsý; Danish: Karminsolfugl; Finnish: karmiinimedestäjä; Japanese: kigoshitaiyouchou; Dutch: Geelrug-honingzuiger; Norwegian: Karminsolfugl; Polish: kwiatownik szkarlatny; Slovak: nektárovka siparaja; Swedish: Scharlakansolfågel


Subspecies and Ranges

  • Aethopyga siparaja siparaja (Raffles, 1822) – Nominate Species
    • Range: Malay Peninsula (south of Narathiwat), Anamba Is (east of Peninsular Malaysia), Sumatra (except Aceh) and satellite islands, and Borneo and associated small islands (except Natunas).


    • Aethopyga siparaja labecula (Horsfield, 1840)
      • Range: Bhutan, northeastern India (north West Bengal, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur) and Bangladesh south to Chittagong Hills, east to Myanmar (except in the south), southern China (south Yunnan), northwestern Laos and northwestern Vietnam
    • Aethopyga siparaja cara (Hume, 1874)
      • Range: South Myanmar and Thailand
    • Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)

      Aethopyga siparaja nicobarica (Hume, 1873)

      • Range: South Nicobar Island (Great and Little Nicobars, Kondal and Meroe Islands)
    • Aethopyga siparaja tonkinensis (E. J. O. Hartert, 1917)
      • Range: Northeastern Vietnam and south China (southeastern Yunnan east to western Guangdong
    • Aethopyga siparaja owstoni (Rothschild, 1910)
      • Range: Naozhou Island (southwestern Guangdong), in south China
    • Aethopyga siparaja mangini (Delacour and Jabouille, 1924)
      • Range: Southeastern Thailand and central and south Indochina
    • Aethopyga siparaja insularis (Delacour and Jabouille, 1928)
      • Range: Phu Quoc Island, off southern Cambodia
    • Aethopyga siparaja trangensis (Meyer de Schauensee, 1946)
      • Range: Southern Thailand and northern Malay Peninsula
    • Aethopyga siparaja natunae (Chasen, 1935)
      • Range: Natuna Island
    • Aethopyga siparaja heliogona (Oberholser, 1923)
      • Range: Java
    • Aethopyga siparaja flavostriata (Wallace, 1865)
      • Range: Northern Sulawesi
    • Aethopyga siparaja beccarii (Salvadori, 1875)
      • Range: Central, south and southeastern Sulawesi, Kabaena, Muna and Butung
    • [Aethopyga siparaja magnifica] (Sharpe, 1876)
      • Range: West-central Philippine Islands, Marinduque, Tablas, Sibuyan, Panay, Negros, Cebu
      • Note: Possibly a separate species
    • [Aethopyga siparaja seheriae] (Tickell, 1833)
      • Range: Himalayan foothills in India from W Himachal Pradesh (Kangra) east to Sikkim and Bhutan, south to northern West Bengal, eastern Bihar,eastern Madhya Pradesh and Orissa (possibly northern Andhra Pradesh), and western Bangladesh
      • Note: Possibly a separate species

Crimson Sunbird


Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja) - Female


Crimson Sunbirds average 11 cm or 4.3 inches in length. They have medium-length thin down-curved bills and brush-tipped tubular tongues, both adaptations to their nectar feeding.

The adult male has a bright red throat, chest and sides. He has deep blue moustachial stripes. His back is maroon-colored, his rump is yellow and his abdomen is yellowish-olive. He has a bluish-green tail with white tips to the outer tail feathers.

In most of the range, the males have a long green-blue tail, but subspecies Aethopyga siparaja nicobarica from the South Nicobar Island (Great and Little Nicobars, Kondal and Meroe Islands) lack the long central tail feathers.

The adult female has an olive-green back, yellowish chest and white tips to the outer tail feathers.


Breeding / Nesting

The Crimson Sunbirds male and female build the purse-shaped, moss-covered nest together – although the female takes on the part of lining the nest. The nest is often suspended from the underside of large fern fronds, or thin branch of a low tree or shrub.

The average clutch consists of 2 – 3 eggs which are mostly incubated by the female for about 18 – 19 days. The male assists with feeding the young.


Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja

Calls / Vocalizations

Its call is described as a chee-cheewee.


Diet / Feeding

Crimson Sunbirds mostly feed on nectar, although take insects particularly during the breeding season to feed their young and to satisfy their own need for increased protein in their diet during this demanding time.

They favor flowers with the highest sugar content and seek out those areas containing flowers with high energy nectar.

Even though most sunbirds can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, the Crimson Sunbirds usually perch while taking nectar

The males establish feeding territories on flower bearing shrubs and trees, which they aggressively defend.

Many native and cultivated plants on whose flowers sunbirds feed heavily rely on them for pollination. The mostly tubular-shaped flowers actually exclude most bees and butterflies from feeding on them and, subsequently, from pollinating the plants.

Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)

Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson


Please Note: The articles or images on this page are the sole property of the authors or photographers. Please contact them directly with respect to any copyright or licensing questions. Thank you.




Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button