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Javan Sunbird: An Important Pollinator in Important Habitats on Java Island

In the remaining forest habitats of Java Island, there is a hidden wonder, a fiery red beauty that adorns the forest canopy, especially in the lowlands.

Through an infographic published in 2023 on the status of birds in Indonesia, we find that Indonesia is home to 1826 bird species. 541 of these are endemic, making Indonesia home to the highest endemic bird species richness globally.

To delve deeper into the diversity of birds in Indonesia, we will begin our journey by examining one endemic bird species that is an integral part of bird species diversity in Java, the Javan Sunbird (Aethopyga mystacalis).

The Javan Sunbird, a small bird measuring 12 cm (male) and 9 cm (female) in length, captivates the eye with its bright red color covering its head, breast and back. The male Javan Sunbird has an iridescent purple crown and malar stripe, and the upper wing coverts and long tail are graded dark purple. Meanwhile, its lower and middle wing covers are dark red, its belly is gray, and its flanks are whitish. The shiny dark brown eyes, beak, and brown legs add to the bird's charm.

On the other hand, the female Javan Sunbird has a gray head with a pale color on the throat, while the rest of its feathers are a paler olive color on the underside. The whitish flanks give this bird a touch of elegance. The juvenile Javan Sunbird resembles the female, but with more dominant shades of gray.

Javan Sunbirds live in hilly forest, lower montane forest, secondary forest and forest edge habitats. They are often found at an altitude of 800-1985 m, although sometimes they can also be found at altitudes close to sea level or even at an altitude of 2300 m.

However, little is known about the Javan Sunbird's ecology, with limited information on their diet. It is thought that they consume flower nectar and small arthropods, and usually forage in pairs in the upper layers of the forest. However, they are often found sucking the nectar of flowers of shrubs and understory plants.

Photo of the Javan Sunbird, taken from its habitat in Purwosari Village (Photo: Burung Indonesia/Jihad)

Javan Sunbirds are often seen visiting coffee plantations in search of nectar and together with butterflies and bees and other taxa help pollinate coffee plants. Due to its endemicity and important role as one of nature's pollinators, the Javan Sunbird is a protected species in accordance with PERMENLHK No. 106 of 2018. Unfortunately, the Javan Sunbird is currently under population pressure from a variety of factors, including habitat loss and hunting for pets.

One location where we can see and observe this bird quite easily is in the Menoreh mountain landscape located on the border of Yogyakarta and Central Java, especially in Purwosari Village and Jatimulyo Village.

Di desa-desa ini, burung-madu jawa hampir dapat ditemukan di semua tipe habitat seperti agroforestri, perkebunan kopi, perkebunan teh maupun di kebun halaman rumah di wilayah perkampungan.

Conservation actions implemented by Burung Indonesia together with local partners in Yogyakarta seek to save various bird species, especially Javanese endemic bird species and increase local community participation in sustainable habitat management through education, awareness, capacity building, and policy advocacy. One of the impacts of conservation actions carried out for Javanese endemic bird species is that now the community - especially in Purwosari Village - understands the importance of birds and other biodiversity for the ecosystem, and is able to utilize the rich bird species in the village sustainably through tourism and livelihood improvement.