Pictures and description of 7 species of Spiderhunter birds

Spiderhunter   Nectariniidae

Spiderhunter which are grouped together with Sunbirds. These are slender birds with down curved bills and harvesting nectar as their diet. Of course, Spiderhunters are larger birds when compared with Sunbirds and having longer and larger bills. Both sexes are alike. These birds are confined to an area, India and east to the Philippines. The southwards from the Himalayas to Java with the greatest number of Spiderhunters found in Malaysia.

Spiderhunters are birds of the forest and rarely venture out to public park or domestic gardens.  The only Spiderhunter that is close to places with human would be the Streaked Spiderhunter which is a sub-montane bird. For more write-up which mentioned about Nectariniidae seen in built-up area, then refer to the text rlating to Sunbirds.


Little Spiderhunter

Arachnothera longirostra

Long-billed Spiderhunter

Arachnothera robusta

Spectacled Spiderhunter

Arachnothera flavigaster

Yellow-eared Spiderhunter

Arachnothera chrysogenys

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter

Arachnothera modesta

Streaked Spiderhunter

Arachnothera magna

Thick-billed Spiderhunter

Arachnothera crassirostris

Whitehead's Spiderhunter

Arachnothera juliae


Within this family of Nectariniidae there are 62 birds of which 11 of them are Spiderhunters. Again of this number, in Malaysia we should be able to see 8 of them.

Here on the list shown on top,  I have got 7 Spiderhunters in my collection leaving the single Whitehead's Spiderhunter out. This is a bird found only in the montane region of Borneo island where I have not spent that much of time.

Spiderhunters as they are so-called as their favorite food is Spider and they have the skills to extract the insect from its web. But they also consume a host of a other small arthropod prey . Perhaps their second favorite would be extracting nectars where their tongue are specially manipulated to do the job. Lastly, I have recorded  fruits of the Marcaranga, Ficus plus another species being the choice of the Spiderhunters. In fact , on these occasions there were 3 species coming together for the feast.

All these while, the bird were seen moving about alone and never in pairs. Only the Little Spiderhunter was recorded perched alone and making calls in several occasions.

The nest of the Spiderhunter is the under side of the large leaf, usually that of the Banana leaves with the two edges pulled in and stitched with sticks. Not surprising is that web filament from the spider home is used to stitch the leaves together.


1. Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera modesta


Size & diagnostic markings:-

18 Cm. I got some pictures from this bird years ago, then never seem to meet up with the bird again. Now for a change I know here I could see this bird daily. So must know its habit. A common bird once you found it. Recognized by its bright olive green upper part and pale olive grey as under part. The under part has fine dark streaks on the throat and front part of breast. No eye ring on this Spiderhunter as well.

 Distribution :-  

The bird is resident in Sumatra, Java and Borneo Islands.

Habitats & preferences:-

This is a lowland bird of the thick forest and also found in the forest of hill slopes.


In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

The bird is fairly common in forest edge and also in parks with flowers. To me, it could be any where as I have seen the bird in  a variety of places and these are not deep jungles.


Links to Spiderhunter call :-    and Video:-  

More pictures of the Grey-breasted Spiderhunter bird


Grey-breasted Spiderhunter  # 1

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter  # 2

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter # 3

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter # 4

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter  # 5

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter # 6

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter  # 7

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter  # 8

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter # 9

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter  # 10

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter  # 11

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter# 12

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter  # 13

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter  # 14

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter # 15

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter # 16

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter # 17

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter # 18

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter # 19

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter # 20

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter# 21

 My personal jottings on the Grey-breasted Spiderhunter :-

The bird is fairly common but remain unidentified instantly as its movement and the stay in all places, are all very brief. It is only with the aids of collected pictures or very good field binoculars that the ID of the bird could be ascertained immediately. What I am trying to say, good chances that most birders had encounters with the bird before and had dismissed the bird as the more often seen Little Spiderhunter. From the earlier series of pictures I had on this bird led me to keep a sharp look out for a Spiderhunter with noticeably grey breast.

yes, as the name implies, the bird should be Grey-breasted as shown in picture 25 below. However, in real life, the shades of grey on the breast is not always that that heavy at in picture 11. Or under other lights, it may not be grey at all. So the best way to diagnose this bird would be the size plus the split on the eye ring if any is present.

With naked eyes, the bird which slightly larger than the Little Spiderhunter looks like one as well. This Grey-breasted do not have eye rings



2. Little Spiderhunter   Arachnothera longirostra cinereicollis


Size & diagnostic markings:-

16 Cm. This is the smallest in the family and also seen most often. In the forest edge just wait beside a flowering banana tree, Chances of the bird coming is more than good. As the name implies this is the smallest Spiderhunter measuring in at 16 cm. The upper part of the bird is yellowish-olive and the under part is whitish. Broken eye ring is also not pronounced and whitish tip to the outer wings feathers. For the little bill the bill appears long.


 Distribution :-  

 The bird is resident in south-west India, south-western China. The Greater Sundas and the Philippines. It is a common resident in Malaysia


Habitats & preferences:-

This is a lowland bird visiting forest edge and some times that of garden near forest edge. Its favorite would the flowers of Banana plants.

In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

If there are wild banana plants and hearing that call from the bird, then it is regular visitor. But the bird may be commonly sighted but not so widespread.


Links to Little Spiderhunter call :-    and Videos

More pictures of the Little Spiderhunter


Little Spiderhunter     # 1

Little  Spiderhunter     # 2

Little  Spiderhunter     # 3

Little  Spiderhunter     # 4

Little  Spiderhunter     # 5

Little  Spiderhunter     # 6

Little  Spiderhunter    # 7

Little  Spiderhunter     # 8

Little  Spiderhunter    # 9

Little  Spiderhunter     # 10

Little  Spiderhunter     # 11

Little  Spiderhunter    # 12

Little  Spiderhunter     # 13

Little  Spiderhunter     # 14

Little  Spiderhunter     # 15

Little  Spiderhunter     # 16

Little  Spiderhunter     # 17

Little  Spiderhunter     # 18

Little  Spiderhunter     # 19

Little  Spiderhunter     # 20

Little  Spiderhunter     # 21

 My personal jottings on this Little Spiderhunter :-

I would rate the sighting of this bird as moderate. Main reason is that it is not easy to be in a place, where this bird is operating with. But once having seen the bird there it is almost there the whole day. Always amidst of thick bushes. But once the location it frequently visit  is  found, then it is easy to see its repeated visit. It is so definite that one can follow its daily pattern and appearances. In this manner, I would rate this bird to be the most frequently seen Spiderhunter. Most important, a banana tree must be flowering.

The bird has another call when it is perched. yes, when it is not dashing from plant to plant, the bird is perched and calling continuously. The bird called incessantly for long period of time. Most unfortunate that the bird's position is not easily spotted. This single syllabus call made repeatedly over a longer duration is a better indicator of its presence in the area. Keep log in and I will upload that call in the next update.


3. Long-billed Spiderhunter  Arachnothera robusta


Size & diagnostic markings:-

 22 Cm. This is another Spiderhunter that gives headaches. it is not a regular bird that we would bump into once in a while but totally comes out of the blue. I find that the bill is longer than normal. Again dull olive brown on the upper part including the head, and the under part has the belly in yellow, throat lighter olive yellow and breast with faint grey streaks, This Spiderhunter looks different from other Spiderhunter and slim even though it is 22 cm long, this is a size for the larger species. First point is the long slender down curved bill.


 Distribution :-  

This is a Spiderhunter for the region of Sumatra, Java and Borneo Island.


Habitats & preferences:-

 This is a lowland bird visiting thick forest and usually those in the hilly slopes.


In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

This is not a common bird in Peninsula Malaysia and I, by accident managed only one set of pictures so far. Unable to give advise as to the type of habitats the birds could be found.


Links to Spiderhunter call :-    and Video:-  


More pictures of the Long-billed Spiderhunter


Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 1 Long-billedSpiderhunter     # 2 Long-billed Spiderhunter     # 3
Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 4 Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 5 Long-billed Spiderhunter  #  6
Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 7 Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 8 Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 9
Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 10 Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 11 Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 12
Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 13 Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 14 Long-billed Spiderhunter  # 15
 My personal jottings on the Long-billed Spiderhunter :-

The bird feature in this entire collection is a juvenile without the streaked breast. In certain angle the lights play tricks on the hue, the breast could be seen as light colored yellow but at times joint with the upper belly as grey. The head and face side is uniformly dull olive and not grey. There is no yellow eye rings as seen in other Spiderhunters. While the yellow on the belly could be seen as rich orange yellow and at times pale yellow.

My assumption would be that there are jungle flowers with long tubes. Then the equally long bill of the Spiderhunter is evolved to extract what the bird wanted. Must be on a look out for such flowers or plants with these flowers.



4. Spectacled Spiderhunter Arachnothera flavigaster


Size & diagnostic markings:-

22 Cm. Yes, there is a bit of confusion between this Spectacled and the Yellow-eared, they both looked alike. First the Spectacled Spiderhunter is the larger Spiderhunter at 22 cm which is more than the 18 Cm. Yellow-eared. The pertinent question would be large or small. The upper part is Olive-green while the under part is plain yellow. The yellow patch beside the ear has make the ID of  this Spiderhunter confused with that of the Yellow eared Spiderhunter. The yellow eye ring is broader and more prominent. Lastly the yellow patch next to the ear is small and sometimes not significant.

 Distribution :-  

The bird is resident in Sumatra and Borneo islands

Habitats & preferences:-

This is a lowland bird visiting forest edge. Like the Little Spiderhunter it is found at wild Banana plants with a flowering bunch and when the Macaranga is fruiting.

 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:-

Look out for the bird in places where there are wild banana plants. Best places is when the Marcaranga is fruiting. In fact this is a fairly common forest edge bird.

Links to Spiderhunre's call :-    and Video  



More pictures of the Spectacled Spiderhunter


Spectacled Spiderhunter     # 1 Spectacled Spiderhunter # 2 Spectacled Spiderhunter     # 3
Spectacled Spiderhunter #  4 Spectacled Spiderhunter #  5 Spectacled Spiderhunter #   6
Spectacled Spiderhunter #  7 Spectacled Spiderhunter #  8 Spectacled Spiderhunter #  9
Spectacled Spiderhunter #  10 Spectacled Spiderhunter #  11 Spectacled Spiderhunter # 12
Spectacled Spiderhunter # 13 Spectacled Spiderhunter # 14 Spectacled Spiderhunter # 15
Spectacled Spiderhunter # 16 Spectacled Spiderhunter # 17 Spectacled Spiderhunter # 18
Spectacled Spiderhunter # 19 Spectacled Spiderhunter # 20 Spectacled Spiderhunter # 21
 My personal jottings on the Spectacled Spiderhunter :-

The yellow patch on the ear is not a hindrance as this patch could be thin as a line while the eye ring is so prominent. The eye ring for the yellow eared is noticeable but not the first point of drawing attention, but rather the yellow patch on the ear. Most pictures on this page were taken in Perdik and Congkak. Both are forest edges and as well as public park. Such environment shows that the bird do not mind getting into places with human movements. I think if you think that the eye ring hits you first, that impression is right. Just remember, for the Yellow-eared, that patch beside the eyes is more prominent.



5. Streaked Spiderhunter   Arachnothera magna


Size & diagnostic markings:-

20 Cm. This species is very common in the montane area. It calls and keeps coming back to the flowers. Seeing one or a couple in that area is common place happenings. The upper part of the bird is yellowish-olive and the under part is whitish. Outstanding are the heavy streaks on the underpart, shoulder and head of the bird. Oh! The legs are orange in color.


 Distribution :-  

 The bird is resident in Nepal, the area of north-eastern India which is also south-western China. It is a common resident in the mountains of Malaysia


Habitats & preferences:-

This is a sub-montane bird staying with very narrow belt of altitude. May stray into montane region but rarely.


In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

As I mentioned in the text, most holiday resorts in the hills. A very common bird. Like Frasers Hills and and Bukit Tinggi would be a must then. Bukit Larut with little human presence is full of this bird.


Record of bird's call :-    and Videos


More pictures of the Streaked Spiderhunter


Streaked Spiderhunter     # 1

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 2

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 3

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 4

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 5

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 6

Streaked Spiderhunter    # 7

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 8

Streaked Spiderhunter    # 9

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 10

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 11

Streaked Spiderhunter    # 12

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 13

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 14

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 15

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 16

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 17

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 18

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 19

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 20

Streaked Spiderhunter     # 21

 My personal jottings on the Streaked Spiderhunter :-

 In most places, the bird is quite used to human presence. Shows some cautions but in Maxwell Hills, the birds seen little outsiders or visitors to the hills. Here the birds were bold, appeared calm and tame. In actual fact, in Bukit TInggi and Maxwell Hills, the birds were foraging or taking in nectar from flowers and these were humans very close by. The birds do not avoid coming into the area nor they refrain from their routine.



6. Thick-billed Spiderhunter  Arachnothera crassirostris


 Size & diagnostic markings:-

 17 Cm. This Thick-billed is very much like the Little Spiderhunter sharing almost the small small size 17 cm. I have no impression with this bird at all as meeting it was really accidental and I do not have much picture of it. The upper breast is slightly grayish. the under part with grayish throat and yellow belly. Then there is an eye ring is halved with a break on the ring where as the eye ring on the Little Spiderhunter is not prominent at all. Most prominent would the thicker bills.

 Distribution :-  

This is another Spiderhunter from the Island of Borneo and Sumatra.

 Habitats & preferences:-

This is a lowland bird but more often found in jungles on the hill slopes and could be found near sub-montane forest.

 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:-

There was not enough encounters made to observe its pattern. The couple of shots harvested were when the bird followed other Spiderhunters to feed on a fruiting tree.


Links to Spiderhunter call :-    and Video  



Some pictures of the Thick-billed Spiderhunter


 My personal jottings on the Thick-billed Spiderhunter :-

The meeting up with this bird is purely accidental and ID confirmed through pictures and comparing sizes with other Spiderhunters where pictures were taken at the same sightings. The series of pictures from the same bird is really inconsistent. I would live with these shots until more meeting up and with more conclusive description.



7. Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  Arachnothera chrysogenys


Size & diagnostic markings:-

 18 Cm. This is one Spiderhunter that looks so much like the Spectacled Spiderhunter. One more time, this bird is smaller at 18 cm and having a more slender bills, larger ear patch and finer eye ring. One personal point may help is that the environment where both these birds are found is slightly different. Again the bird has a Olive green upper part more brownish than green while the under part is faint yellow with very faint streaks. Actually not streaks but an appearance caused by coarse feathers. Again a ring around the eyes by much slender ring, the bill is thinner as well.

 Distribution :-  

The Yellow eared Spiderhunter is also a bird from Sumatra and Borneo island.

Habitats & preferences:-

This is a lowland bird of the forest edges of the larger and more pristine forest.


In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

 Like many other Spiderhunters when  there are wild banana plants This bird would be there. So were the different types of flowers that this birds were associated with.


Links to Spiderhunter call :-    and Video  


More pictures of the Yellow-eared Spiderhunter


Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 1 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter     # 2 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter     # 3
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  #4 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 5 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  #  6
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 7 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 8 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 9
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 10 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 11 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 12
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 13 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 14 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 15
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 16 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 17 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter  # 18
 My personal jottings on the yellow-eared Spiderhunter :-

The Yellow-eared is more associated with nectar. That impression I got after seeing them most time that  I encountered the birds. They were busy drawing nectars. Though one isolated incident, it was caught following other Spiderhunters, I had not seen that bird again in many other subsequent encounters. The series of pictures shown here were taken on separate occasions in Taman Negara, Rengit and then the last 3 frames with the bird eating out of the Durian fruit was taken in Endau Rompin. All these places with little human traffic and the flowers in bloom some distances away.

This bird I have met less often than the Spectacled Spiderhunter, which also gives a hint that they are less seen.



Spiderhunter watching needs a different tactic as the birds cannot be found at random. Chance meeting is rare. They are birds with fix habits and returning to the same cluster of tree or trees for nectar/seeds at the scheduled time.

So prior knowledge of the exact spot and trees and which are the species to be found is essential. For example, for Streaked Spiderhunter the bird can be found at the summit of Bukit Tinggi and Maxwell Hills in great numbers. Once knowing the birds routine, meeting up with the birds desired is just a normal Spiderhunter seeking trip where chances are above average.

I can say that as there are still a couple of species such as the Thick-billed and the Yellow-eared Spiderhunters. I still need more pictures and I just couldn't say where could I meet up with them.