Sunbirds

Rubugari, SW Uganda. February 2016. One of my tasks while I’m here is to seek out Bakiga folklore and mythology related to birds. So far it’s surprised me to find relatively little; I would have thought that people who live so close to the land would have many tales to tell. There are a few: a noisy bird, the Hadada Ibis, is said to embody the soul of a baby trying to escape from an unlucky transformation.  It cries a penetrating and mournful ‘Wa-aaaaaaa!’ as it flies.  The presence of an African Pied Wagtail alongside you as you cultivate the fields is a happy sign, it ensures a good harvest to follow.  The hollow-gulping call of a Blue-headed Coucal means rain is on the way. (Not infallible, it didn’t rain when we saw and heard my first one.)

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I would have thought the sunbirds would carry more meaning. Sunbirds are glorious glittering show offs (the males anyway, I suppose the females are too busy toiling in the fields). Where the New World has hummingbirds, Africa has Sunbirds. As I type this a Bronze Sunbird is working over the flowers of a nearby Flame Tree. The Bronze Sunbird is actually one of the less showy ones being an iridescent bronzy-green (as you might expect) all over, it has a needlessly long tail and in common with all sunbirds a down-curved sickle bill. Just yesterday in the company of several enthusiastic members of a birding club we found two breathtakingly spectacular sunbirds: Regal Sunbird, splashed and daubed in red, orange, yellow, and iridescent blues, violets and greens, it had our group gasping. And not far away, a Purple- breasted Sunbird sat out in the open, another long- tailed creature but this one was dressed all over in purple, blue or violet depending on how the sun caught it.

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Here is a gallery of selected sunbird shots.  It’s visible only on the website, not if you’re reading this as an email.

 

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