I was watching a pair of Greater Double-collared Sunbirds feeding on the aloes blooming next to our swimming pool this morning when the thought struck me how often people get mixed up between a Cape Turtle Dove and a Red-eyed Dove – the ring around the neck being a superficial identification, until one looks more closely and sees just how different these birds really are. The same applies to the Greater Double-collared Sunbird and the Southern Double-collared Sunbird (formerly known as the Lesser Double-collared Sunbird) – the double band on their chests being a superficial identification, until one looks more closely …

To be fair, while the doves mentioned above are regularly seen in the same area and can even occur in the same flock of doves feeding on the ground, we rarely see these two sunbird species in the same place to make an easy comparison. Both have beaks well adapted for collecting nectar from tubular flowers – clearly illustrated by this Southern Double-collared Sunbird:

The Southern Double-collared Sunbird has a shorter and more slender beak than the Greater Double-collared Sunbird – an aspect that is not always easily discernible in the field.

Both species of sunbird have an attractive green iridescence on their head back and wings. The males sport a double band of blue and red on their breasts – and this is where the most visible difference comes in. The bands are much narrower on the Southern Double-collared Sunbird, particularly the more noticeable red band:

For comparison, here is a Greater Double-collared Sunbird – a year-round resident in our garden.

The photographs of its lesser cousin were all taken in Cape Town.