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Sun-Birds

birds and world

SUN-BIRDS, a large family (Nectariniide) of small insect-eating birds of the tropics of the Old World, having elongated, slender and curved bills, wings of moderate size and the central tail-feathers usually prolonged beyond the others. These birds occur in the Eastern Archipelago, India and Africa. They take the place of the hununing-birds of the New World, and in brilliant coloration and habits much resemble these, but are far removed from them in classification, the honey-eaters (Meliphagi del being their nearest relatives. They are constantly hovering about flowers seeking the minute insects found within the petals and sip ping the flower-juices, so that they have been named sucriers or sugar-eaters, by French au thors. Some certainly eat fruits. The song is sweet, but without any special characteristics, and in habits they are exceedingly lively, quar relsome and even pugnacious. The gaudy

plumage is chiefly confined to the male sun birds and depends for effect upon intensity of color and not upon metallic or prismatic lustre. The nests are built in the hollows of trees or are placed in thick bushes. Some species (such as Nectarinia lotenia and N. asiatica) make dome-like nests, which are suspended from the extremities of twigs of bushes, and are covered with cobwebs for the purpose of concealment. A magnificent treatise upon the sun-birds, with colored plates, has been written by Shelley, en titled (A Monograph of the Nectarinticim' (London 1876-80). The name is sometimes given to various other birds. Thus the sugar birds or banana-birds (qq.v.) of the West Indies are often so called; and a large South American bird, also called finfoot, for which see HELIORNITH