Olive-backed Sunbird

Latin: Cinnyris jugularis (Nectarina jugularis)
Family: Nectariniidae
Indonesian: Burung-madu seriganti

Size: 11 cm

Olive-backed Sunbird
Female Olive-backed Sunbird visiting the flowers of a Garlic Vine.
Olive-backed Sunbird - male
Male Olive-backed Sunbird makes hole in flower of Trumpet Vine to get the nectar.
Olive-backed Sunbird - male
Male Olive-backed Sunbird

Olive-backed Sunbirds are regular visitors of my garden. They usually come for the nectar in the flowers of the Garlic Vine and the Trumpet Vine. As the Trumpet Vine grows above our terrace and the birds are not that shy, it is easy to observe their behaviour and appearance.
Both male and female have an olive-green back and yellow breast. The male is distinguished by its dark purple-blue throat which looks black without the right light fall.

An important part of the Sunbird's diet is nectar. I always thought that the long beak of these birds is used to enter trumpet shaped flowers from the front. In fact the bird gets its nectar in an easier way: it just makes a hole near the basis of the flower.

There have been two attempts for nesting by Sunbirds in my garden. Unfortunately none was successful. The first nest was destroyed by heavy wind, the second by unexpected rain in the dry season falling exactly from the roof above it. The nest is a rough woven hanging structure with the entrance at the side. In the cases mentioned above the nests were made in a shrub about 1.5 meter above the ground. One or two eggs per nest seems to be normal.

Lemon-bellied White-eye

Latin: Zosterops chloris
Family: Zosteropidae
English: Lemon-bellied White-eye. Yellow bellied White-eye
Indonesian: Kacamata laut

Size: 11-12 cm.

Lemon-bellied White-eye
Lemon-bellied White-eyes eating the fruits of a Macarthur Palm. At right young begging for food.

There are several Macarthur Palms in my garden of which most of the time there is at least one tree bearing ripe fruits. Because of this there are all year round White-eyes visiting. It often looks like these birds together with Bulbuls (see below) do not have much else on their menu than these palm fruits.

The White-eyes are easy to recognize by the small white feathers forming a ring around their eyes. In Indonesian their name is "spectacle bird" (Burung kacamata). This specific species is called Burung kacamata laut in Indonesian. 'Laut' meaning sea, tells us that the birds are found in coastal areas. So, with Makassar being a coastal town, I guess there is nothing special in having this bird species visiting my garden.

White-eyes are too small to take whole fruits from the Macarthur Palm. They just pick small pieces until the a fruit is finished or drops from the tree. When there are young, these follow the parents with trembling wings, begging for food all the time. The young have as well a white ring around the eyes. The main difference with their parents is that feathers are more fluffy and exposed sides of their bill.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Latin: Passer montanus
Family: Passeridae
Indonesian: Burung gereja erasia

Size: 14 cm.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Eurasion Tree Sparrow

In the higher part of my garden lives a group of Tree Sparrows. They visit the top of the mango tree, the roof and the TV antenna. For some reason they never visit the lower levels of the garden. This must mean that they can find enough food elsewhere.

Tree Sparrows are introduced in Sulawesi. Probably they came here in captivity from other parts of the world.

The birds have most of the time nests under the roof tiles of the house. It is a big mystery for me how they and their young can survive there. Under the roof tiles is a metal layer the avoid leakage. With the sun hitting the tiles the temperature in the space in between must be over 500 C during the daytime. It seems they just like it.

Savana Nightjar

Latin: Caprimulgus affinis
Family: Caprimulgidae
Indonesian: Cabak kota

Size: about 25 cm

Savana Nightjar Savana Nightjar

The photo's on the right are really rare. One morning these nightjars were resting in a shady place on the lower roof of the house. They were just sitting there, like waiting for something. Not long after the climbing sun hit their place they were gone. Never after I spotted the birds sitting on the roof again.

Nightjars are common in and around Makassar. Usually you hear the bird's call not long after sunset. Their typical 'tsweeek' tells you there are one or more of them flying around. Their wings are relatively long and moving fast and now and then come to a standstill for short gliding. Often the birds make unexpected moves, obviously to catch an insect.

In the photos the nightjar's bill is difficult to see. In fact it is very wide (for 'scooping' insects during the flight), but has only a small part that sticks out. The beak extends up to under the eye.

It seems the birds are most active in the hours just after sunset and just before sunrise, but can be heard as well during other hours of the night. After sunrise they are gone again. Maybe sitting on somebody else's roof that is shady all day long?

Sooty-headed Bulbul

Latin: Pycnonotus aurigaster
Family: Pycnonotidae
Indonesian: Cucak kutilang, Kutilang

Size: 20 cm

Sooty-headed Bulbul
Sooty-headed Bulbul calling
Young Sooty-headed Bulbul
Young Bulbul with still fluffy feathers and exposed beak sides
Sooty-headed Bulbul
Adult Bulbul with Macarthur Palm fruit in its beak

Before sunrise, with the first signs of a new day beginning, the singing of the Bulbuls take an important part in bird sounds around my house. In the daytime they fly in groups moving between roof and tree tops until they think it is time to eat again. The MacArthur Palms in my garden are often visited. The birds seem to follow the same pattern all the time: one fruit is eaten on the spot, after that one is taken away to be eaten in an other place. If the much smaller White-eyes happen to be around, they are chased away from the fruits.

The Sooty-headed Bulbul is a very common bird in Makassar. If most parts of town with high trees you can see them flying around in groups. Actually the bird has no origins in Sulawesi. The birds escaped from captivity and seem to have increased to a large number.

Yellow-vented Bulbul

Latin: Pycnonotus goiavier
Family: Pycnonotidae
Indonesian: Mebah Cerukcuk

Size: 20 cm

Yellow-vented Bulbul

Yellow-vented Bulbul

Compaired with the Sooty-headed Bulbul (see above here) the Yellow-vented Bulbul is a less common guest in my garden. At first sight these two species might look rather similar, but when you watch their heads closely, you will notice the differences. The Yellow-vented Bulbul has a broad white eyebrow and does not have a black throat.

Like its Sooty-headed cousin the Yellow-vented Bulbul has been introduced in South Sulawesi.

Sulawesi (Barn) Owl

Latin: Tyto Rosenbergii
Family: Tytonidae
English: Sulawesi (Barn) Owl, Celebes Barn Owl
Indonesian: Serak Sulawesi

Size: 43 - 46 cm

Sulawesi Barn Owl - Makassar
Sulawesi (Barn) Owl under overhanging roof
Sulawesi Barn Owl - Makassar
Sulawesi (Barn) Owl in Coconut Palm

The first time a Sulawesi Barn Owl visited my house, one of the children shouted in the early evening: "there is a small monkey flying above our house". She clearly was confused to see a bird not known to her that had its eyes in front of its head.

The Sulawesi Barn Owl is endemic to Sulawesi and is considerably larger that its relative Tyto alba (Barn Owl, 35 cm) which is spread over many parts of the world, including Java and some other Indonesian islands.
In the bird guides I consulted the habitat of the Tyto Rosenbergii is described as open rural area, coconut plantations and forest edges.
Several sighting in Makassar prove that this species is a rather common bird in town and has either adapted to this environment, or has always been living here. The biggest surprise was to see this bird one  evening sitting above the busy traffic on a lamp post at Pantai Losari (Makassar seaside).

The Sulawesi Barn Owl is like other owls active at night and usually rests in the day time in a shady place in a tree, or in buildings. It makes its nest in protected places like buildings and caves. From the pellets dropped by this bird in my garden it looks like its food exists of rats only. This probably means that the species' diet is similar with that of the Tyto alba and in general exists of rodents. It means as well that it is a very useful bird that helps to control the rat population.

White-breasted Wood-Swallow

Latin: Artamus leucorhynchus
Family: Corvidae
Indonesian: Kekep babi

Size: 19 cm

White-breasted Wood-Swallow

Sometimes I find a bird species around the house that I do not know yet. The bird in the picture above was sitting one day on the TV antenna. Its head was moving in all directions continuously, probably in search of insects. Sometimes it flew to catch something and came immediately back again to the antenna.

If I can make some clear photo's of new visitors I usually can find the species with the help of a bird guide. Without photos the bird often has flown before I can note enough details. A search in my bird guide made me first think that the new guest was a Cuckoo-shrike. But these birds seem only to live in mountain forests. A better look at the pictures told me that the Cuckoo-shrike has a far longer tail. The Swallow-like flight of the visiting bird finally convinced me that I had to look at the members of a different group of birds. That's how I found it to be a White-breasted Wood-Swallow.

The Wood-Swallow became a regular visitor of the antenna. Sometime a second bird joins. May be they are breading nearby? Now I know the species I often spot these bird in the rural areas around Makassar. Its status seems to be common.

Golden-bellied Flyeater

Latin: Gerygone sulphurea
Family: Acanthizidae
English: Flyeater, Golden-bellied/Yellow-breasted Flyeater, Golden-bellied Fairy-warbler, Yellow-breasted (Gerygone) Warbler, Yellow-breasted Wren-warbler
Indonesian: Remetuk Laut

Size: 9.5-10.5 cm

Flyeater Flyeater

The flyeater is a tiny bird that usually is first discovered by its distinctive song existing of a series of tones descending three or four notes. This fast moving bird basically lives on insects. In many areas in Indonesia its status is common.

It makes a very attractive ball shaped nest hanging a few meters above the ground. The round entrance made at the side is covered with a little roof. It looks like a "tail" at bottom of nest is sticking out in the opposite direction of the entrance to keep the hanging construction in balance. Unfortunately I have no pictures of a nest yet.

Grey-sided Flowerpecker

Latin: Dicaeum celebicum
Family: Dicaeidae
Indonesian: Cabai panggul-kelabu

Size: 9 cm

Grey-sided Flowerpecker

The quality of the picture above here is rather poor, but still I am happy that it shows the bright red throat of this little bird. With only 9 cm the Flowerpecker is the smallest birds visiting my garden. Usually the Flowerpecker sits in a tree top or antenna and rarely visits lower levels of the garden. Its high and fragile sound is difficult to describe, but easy to recognise again once you know it.

Black-naped Oriole

Latin: Oriolus Chinensis
Family: Oriolidae
Indonesian: Kepudang Kuduk-hitam

Size: 26 - 30 cm

Black-naped Oriole
Black-naped Oriole in Macarthur Palm
Black-naped Oriole
Black-naped Oriole in Mango Tree
Black-naped Oriole neck
Black-naped Oriole showing the black band in its neck

In the last months of 2020 the Black-naped Oriole was a regular guest in my garden. The first time I noticed it was when the mango tree had ripe fruits. After these were finished (and harvested) it came for the fruits of the MacArthur Palm. As this palm bears fruit all year round, I expected that the oriole would stay around. Unfortunately it disappeared.
The oriole can easily be recognised by its bright yellow color, black mask and black ends of its wings and tail.
The Black-naped Oriole is bit bigger in size than the Sooty-headed Bulbul.
Its song is a short flute-like four-note melody that is repeated several times. It sometimes has as well a more nasal sounding call.

White-vented Myna

Latin: Acridotheres cinereus
Family: Sturnidae
Indonesian: Kerak Kerbau
English: White-vented Myna

Size: 25 - 26 cm

White-vented Myna
White-vented Myna on water tower

It was somewhere in 2016 that I saw for the first time White-vented Mynas around my house. First in 2020 these birds started visiting my garden to eat the berries of the MacArthur Palms. The birds usually move around in groups of about 4 - 5. In their flight the white parts of the wings are clearly visible. From a distance sitting birds look completely black, but nearby and with good lighting, the grey breast will be clearly visible.


The pages in the categories "animals" and "plants" give an impression of life in the front- and backyard of my house in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The photos were made in a period of several years.