Rwanda is home to 25 different species of Sunbird. Some like the Red-chested Sunbird and Scarlet-chested Sunbird can be found across the country in our gardens, urban centres, wooded areas, hedgerows, and thornbush savanna. Whereas others, like the Regal Sunbird and Purple-breasted Sunbird are endemic to the Albertine Rift and are best seen in Nyungwe National Park. Other Albertine Rift endemic species, like the Blue-headed Sunbird can also be found in Volcanoes National Park. Their length varies from the tiny Variable Sunbird at 10cm through to the Bronze Sunbird measuring 22cm. Of the 25 different species, 6 of them have two elongated central tail feathers. These beautiful birds are specialists when it comes to collecting nectar from flowering plants. They supplement their sweet diet with insects, especially during the breeding season. They forage for insects by hovering above the foliage, collecting food items from spiderwebs and also taking them whilst in flight. Whilst these stunning birds are residents here, they can however be described as somewhat nomadic, as they move around with the changing availability of their favourite flowering plants. Sunbirds are monogamous and form protracted pair bonds, which are maintained by the pair preening on each other (allopreening). The female builds a somewhat messy pendulum-shaped nest that can often resemble debris caught at the end of a branch. They can breed throughout the year but prefer the dry season. I have spent hours watching various sunbirds build nests at Umusambi Village and by Nyarutarama lake. The origin of the name Sunbird, refers to their habit of being active in the heat of the day when nectar-bearing flowers are open. The different species are named after the plumage of the male birds. The females don’t have the bright colours, this difference is known as sexual dimorphism. Whilst some might describe the females as drab and boring, I would argue that it is for good reason – camouflage and concealment. During the breeding season, the female alone will incubate the eggs in the nest and initially stay with the chicks when they hatch. When they hatch, Sunbird chicks are underdeveloped and stay in the nest for a long time (altrical and nidicolous). If she did have bright male plumage then unwanted attention from predators would be a lot more likely. The male helps with parental duties by bringing food to the nest and defending the territory from unwelcome visitors such as snakes and raptors. One common myth you might hear is that Sunbirds and Hummingbirds are closely related. This is understandable given that both diets are predominantly on nectar, and both families have brightly iridescent plumage as well as other physical similarities including wing size, and beak shape. However, despite these similarities, genetic studies have shown that Hummingbirds, found only in the Americas are actually closely related to swifts. Sunbirds on the other hand, which are found in Africa and parts of Asia, are most closely related to crows. Their similarities have evolved independently (convergent evolution) as both groups of tiny, colourful birds have exploited similar niches in different parts of the world to exploit nectar. A couple of the Sunbird’s adaptations are really awesome and worth highlighting. A Sunbird’s tongue is tubular (like a straw) and is also incredibly long – it can be extended out as long as its beak, enabling it to suck up and hold nectar. Second, the tip of a Sunbird’s bill is serrated, so if it’s unable to reach the nectar by placing its beak into the flower, it can cut a hole in the petal to release the nectar. Whether you’re relaxing in one of Kigali’s cafes, trekking in the high forested mountains or even on a game drive across the eastern savannahs, Rwanda’s Sunbirds are the little jewels that make anyone’s day.