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The Nectarinidæ or Sunbird Family

A bird of the plains which is to be seen in every Nilgiri garden is the beautiful little purple sunbird (Arachnecthra asiatica). He flits about in the sunbeams, passing from flower to flower, extracting with his long tubular tongue the nectar hidden away in their calyces. He is especially addicted to gladioli. His head gets well dusted with yellow pollen, which he carries like a bee from one bloom to another. In the case of flowers with very deep calyces, he sometimes makes short cut to the honey by piercing with his sharp curved bill a hole in the side through which to insert the tongue. The cock purple sunbird needs no description. His glistening metallic plumage compels attention. He is usually accompanied by his spouse, who is earthy brown above and pale yellow below.

The other sunbird commonly seen in hill-gardens is one appropriately named the tiny sun bird or honeysucker (Arachnecthra minima), being less than two-thirds the size of a sparrow. As is usual with sunbirds, the cock is attired more gaily than the hen. He is a veritable feathered exquisite. Dame Nature has lavished on his diminutive body most of the hues to be found in her well-stocked paint-box. His forehead and crown are metallic green. His back is red, crimson on the shoulders. His lower plumage might be a model for the colouring of a Neapolitan ice-cream; from the chin downwards it displays the following order of colours: lilac, crimson, black, yellow. The hen is brown above, with a dull red rump, and yellow below.

The purple-rumped sunbird (Arachnecthra zeylonica), which is very abundant in and about Madras, does not ascend the Nilgiris above 3000 feet. Loten's sunbird (A. lotenia) ventures some 2500 feet higher, and has been seen in the vicinity of Coonoor. This species is in colouring almost indistinguishable from the purple sunbird, but its long beak renders it unmistakable.