Roots 'n' Shoots: Sunbirds & Spiderwebs - Something Special

Why is RnS Moving to

Google had brought out an algorithm update in May 2017. With previous updates like Panda or Penguin, Mr G had penalized blogs or websites with low quality content and those more focused on aggressive adverts (including multiple ads or pop-up ads in articles). However, many blogs/websites that weren't shady got penalized beyond recovery too and a lot of people lost their income. The May 2017 update has had wide-scale effect on blogs and websites, but without any explanation from Mr G as to why or what it does. RnS has been hit by it too and hard. RnS organic search stats (i.e. users from Google) have dropped by 75% since. Even though RnS is not a source of income, I tried to figure out why RnS is being culled. It seems that it doesn't really have anything to do with RnS per se, but likely because RnS is FREE and not paying for page ranking (via AdWords or Ad Ranking). Now it is likely being aggressively shoved to lower page rankings to accommodate the paid ads.

I cannot rely on Mr G anymore to get RnS' content where it is needed. So I am busy moving RnS to Wordpress where you can find me as Whisker Flowers @

I am also imposing 301 redirects from already moved posts and pages!

- The Shroom - (AKA Whisker Flowers)

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Sunbirds & Spiderwebs - Something Special

Whitebellied Sunbird Male
Nectarinia talatala

We have a few residential sunbirds in the neighbourhood - not the very flashy ones like those in the fynbos areas of South Africa, but none the less gorgeous little birdies.

The Whitebellied sunbird, Nectarinia talatala is a common sight for those living close to bushveld towards the northern parts of southern Africa. It is a smaller sunbird about 11 cm and the males have metallic bottle green upper backs and heads, with a purple band that separates the white belly. Colourful males aside, this article features the females, which are often overlooked because of their pale colourations.

Whitebellied Sunbird Female
Nectarinia talatala

We have a Bird of Paradise (Sterlitzea spp.) plant in the centre of the vegetable garden, which houses a large collection of hedgehog and garbage line spiders (see my Spider Biocontrol Post). These make up the front line of my garden defence against pestilences. However the female spiders laid their eggs in the webs and during the course of winter most adults are either eaten (by bulbuls) or succumb to the cooler temperatures. The egg casings stay safe until spring and hatch out to thousands of little spindly spiderlings. Before the garden turned into a spider nursery this year, we observed some interesting behaviour from the sunbird females...

The tiny birds would swoop into the Sterlitzea plant - at first we assumed it was for the nectar (since we saw the males feeding on the flowers - picture above). Yet the females weren't feeding on the flowers, then we saw them eyeing the spider webs and again we thought that they were eating the spiders (maybe the baby birds need some protein rather than nectar?), but the spider webs were empty. So I sat outside about 2 m away from the Sterlitzea and watched as the female (indifferent to my presence) bounced around inside. There were two photographers snapping up the action - I was outside and another was hiding behind the curtains of a window closer to the action. Here is what we saw:

Whitebellied Sunbird Femlae collecting spiderwebs
Nectarinia talatala

 The female sunbird was collecting spider webs - I could hear her beak make a loud clap every time she gathered up a beakful! This was strange - we have never heard of such behaviour and it lead to some investigating... Many birds collect spider silk from empty webs as part of the nest construction (males and females both partake in this behaviour) seemingly using the material as sticky tape for the structural scaffolding of the nest and to keep other add-ons from falling off. 

We had lots of fun observing the fascinating behaviour and it was truly special to be so close to a very skittish wild bird - here I have another photo of the black-eyed Bulbul female (Pycnonotus barbatus) also making a stop at the Sterlitzea to gather up some spider silk nesting material. 

Blackeyed Bulbul female collecting spiderwebs
Pycnonotus barbatus


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