Tag Archives: Nectar

Purple Sunbird: Beauty in Small Package

When winter gives way to spring season, the dormant nature wakes up. Every plant and tree begin to bear new leaves. There is a riot of flowers and many of the birds come back to gorge on flower nectar and other insects which also visit the flowers and plants.

If you happen to be in some garden and near flowering bushes, you will hear calls of a bird but will have trouble to locate the bird itself. This bird is very small in size. It is due to its peculiar sounds it makes and its purple colour, you can locate it. In fact the purple colour is of males. It is even more difficult to pinpoint the females which are entirely different in colour. The bird is only 10 to 12 centimetres long. It has a long curved beak. The color looks different from different angles. Depending on the amount of light reflected because color is due to iridescence. Most of the times, it looks black.

Female sunbird is of olive color. The female and male are so different in appearance that you will think them as two different birds.

If it is not possible to get the nectar directly, they puncture the sepal near the nectar to reach the nectar. Although they predominantly survive on nectar of flowers, they can also eat insects particularly when the breeding season is on and requirements of food high.

Although they resemble hummingbirds but they reach for nectar after perching themselves unlike hummingbirds.

The bird is very agile and darts here and there from one flowery bush to another. Hence it is very difficult to take good photos with ordinary camera.

 

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Sitting on a branch

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Piercing the pod for food

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Female Sunbird

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Female sunbird sitting on a wire

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With an insect in its mouth

 

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Honey, Bees are getting shrunk

Worldwide the number of bees is reducing due to various detrimental factors. In the past four years reduction in their numbers have shrunk by as much as 30%.

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Honey has so many properties and benefits to humans, that it is considered as the food of Gods. It is full of nutrients and is complete food. And how is it made? Flowers with nectar, and a beehive and bees do the rest. It was also the first food of the cavemen. Our food will be less diverse and less nutritional without honey.

Not only that they convert the raw nutrients from flowers into the brown colored liquid but during the collection of nectar by visiting one flower after another, they are carrying out the process of cross pollination which results in better kind of fruits. The bee keepers keep their beehives under the shade of flowering trees or crops with flowers to enhance the pollination rate and thereby the productivity of farm crops. It has been observed that production increases to the tune of 35% due to pollination by bees.

India in this regard has done better with increase in the number of bees. The production of honey in 2014-15 has been 29578 MT as compared to 28376 MT in 2013-14. The value of export of natural honey was 445 crores rupees in 2013-14 and 555 crores rupees in 2014-15. The major buyer countries are USA, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Libya and Morrocco.

In India, 500 species of flora exits which are suitable for bees to extract the nectar and pollen. Major areas of production of natural honey are Maharastra and North East India. Some of naturally pure honey types are:

  1. Rapeseed or mustard honey.
  2. Eucalyptus honey
  3. Lychee honey
  4. Karaj or Pongamea honey
  5. Multi flora himalayan honey
  6. Acacia honey
  7. Wild flora honey
  8. Multi or single flower honey

The possible reasons for the decline in numbers are the use of pesticides in the farming, pathogens and lack of foraging. The has been marked increase in the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) disease during recent years. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.

Even nature is giving us enough indication against the use of methodologies which run counter to the harmonious ways of the nature.

Honey: A Food fit for Gods

Honey is thought to be very healthy sweetener. It is produced by bees as their food source and made from nectar sucked from the flowers with the help of enzymes. The final product is made of roughly 80% sugar, 17% water and a number of trace compounds. It is these trace compounds that are responsible for honey’s varied flavors and colors. The most abundant sugars in honey are fructose and glucose. Among the myriad minor complex sugars in the honey are maltose, sucrose, and other disaccharides, as well as trisaccharides such as erlose.

The nectar is mixed with enzymes, Invertase being the most critical, in their stomach-like honey sacs. Invertase splits the sucrose in the nectar into fructose and glucose and also produces some erlose. Back at the hive, the bees pass the digested material to house bees who reduce the moisture content of the mixture by ingesting and regurgitating it. They then deposit concentrated drops into honeycomb cells. Over the next few days, bees fan the fluid with their wings to further concentrate it, and finally, they cap the cells with wax. At the same time, enzyme-mediated changes produce a range of sugars and acids in the honey. Bee enzymes also show up in the finished product. Another enzyme, glucose oxidase, converts glucose to gluconolactone, which is then hydrolyzed to give gluconic acid, the principal acid in honey. Formic, acetic, butyric, and lactic acids are also found in honey, which explains why its pH typically measures 3.8-4.0 which is quite acidic and inhibits the growth of any bacteria in it.

Honey also contains small amounts of minerals and proteins. About 0.2% of honey is ash, probably originating in the flower nectar. Potassium accounts for about one-third of the ash. Other trace elements in honey include iron, manganese, copper, and silicon. The sweetener also contains up to 1% nitrogen, which comes principally from proteins. These proteins can cause honey to foam and form tiny air bubbles.

Of the more than 100 compounds found in honey, many are volatile organic compounds, such as phenylethyl alcohol, that contribute to flavor. The honey flavor is dependent on the flavor compounds and aroma compounds that come from a flower.

Because weather and geography affect flowers, each batch of honey can have a slightly different makeup of flavor chemicals.

Hummingbirds: The extraordinary birds

Hummingbirds are most beautiful birds endowed with dazzling colors and hues. But these birds seem to be consigned to the extreme life because at the end of the day, they are so exhausted that it is not sure whether or not they will live to see the another day. Their humming near the flowers in which they insert their specialized beaks to suck the nectar while steadying themselves by constantly flapping their wings, seems like a fluid motion poetry. It is sight to behold. They can fly forward and backward, up and down manoeuvrings come as easily to them.

So they are not the ordinary birds but take the definition of extraordinary to a whole new level. They are the smallest warm-blooded creatures on the planet, but they are also among the fastest. They measure on the average 4-5 centimeters. They can  With wings that beat up to 200 times every second, they are among nature’s most accomplished athletes, the only birds able to hover, fly backwards, and even upside down.

Hummingbird metabolisms are set in permanent overdrive, requiring them to consume more than half their body weight in nectar every day. Some researchers say that nectar consumption for providing energy to fuel the furious activity during the day time, may be equal to their own weights. Since nectar provides them only sugars for energy, they have to supplement it with insects for getting proteins and other nutrients.

To survive the night, they fluff up their feathers and adjust their body thermostats, and reduce their body temperatures by half and reduce their heart rate from 600 beats per minute to a mere 36 to save the energy for survival  and begin their struggle for life next morning.

Due to their small size and dizzying speeds, human beings know only the crude facets of their sizes. PBS has sponsored a study to peer closely into their lives. By using state of the art technology and high definiton cameras, they have been able to delve deep into the private lives of hummingbirds. With  cameras able to capture over 500 images a second, the hummingbirds’ magical world can finally be seen and appreciated. Amazing footage shows these little powerhouses are far more than delicate nectar gatherers — they are also deadly predators. And watch as the birds display their elaborate mating rituals, showing off with nose dives that subject them to over ten G’s of force — enough to cause an experienced fighter pilot to black out!

These tiny marvels dazzle and delight bird watchers all over the world, and NATURE reveals their stunning abilities as they have never been seen before. The whole story is available at the PBS website page. Please go through and if you can watch the video you are lucky because video is blocked in our region, God knows for whatever reasons.