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Sunbirds (Family: Nectariniidae) are a group of birds that generally live in forested landscapes in the Old World tropics, primarily Africa and southeast Asia. Sunbirds are known to pollinate several flower species. For example, the orange-tufted sunbird ( Nectarinia osea osea ) is the exclusive winter pollinator of the burning bush ( Loranthus acaciae ). The queen's bird-of-paradise ( Strelitzia reginae ), found in the shrublands of southeastern Africa, is pollinated by a sunbird which lands on a large, showy specialized leaf called a spathe to drink nectar from the flower. Pollen is dusted onto the sunbird's breast and feet as the bird separates the sepals. The bird then inadvertently carries this pollen to the next flower it visits. The small sunbird ( Nectarinia minima ) pollinates trees and epiphytic plants including Palaquium ellipticum (a tropical tree), Elaeocarpus munronii (a flowering plant found in India), and members of the Loranthaceae (mistletoe) family.

It is believed that some species of plants have co-evolved with sunbirds. The orange-breasted ( Anthobaphes violacea ) and lesser double collared ( Cinnyris chalybea ) sunbirds pollinate species of ericas (small shrubs) that have evolved to fit the shape of the birds' beaks. Also, members of the genus Mimetes have evolved flowerheads adapted to pollination by birds, specifically sunbirds and sugarbirds.


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Supplier: Bob Corrigan

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