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RaphaelJS by Chris Wilson

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Colophon

The animal on the cover of RaphaelJS is a Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica), a colorful passerine (perching) bird that is commonly found in the Middle East and northern Africa. Every February, the male Sunbird grows “nuptial plumage,” which are vibrantly colored feathers that he displays to impress the females of the species.

The nuptial plumage tends to consist of glossy green/blue/violet feathers on the back and sides with a brilliant yellow underbelly and one or two long tail streamers. This is in stark opposition to the normal appearance of males and the year-round appearance of females: a musty brown body with a cream and dull-yellow colored belly and short tail. The mating display occurs for days, with the male being careful to display his plumage to the female and gain her attention through short calls that grow louder as the day continues. The male’s bright plumage starts to fade after two to three months, and then the two sexes become almost physically indistinguishable.

Sunbirds require good sources of nectar, and are similar to hummingbirds in their feeding behaviors—they are quite small (only 15cm long at their largest) so they can dart and flicker around very quickly, and even have a hummingbird-like beak that is best suited to trumpet-shaped flowers. Although the Nile Valley Sunbird population has not been officially quantified, it has been designated as stable because of the frequency of sightings and the birds’ large range of habitat. Sunbirds are ...

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