Diurnal birds generally sleep during the hours of darkness. Most male southern African sunbirds have pectoral tufts, although the function of these is not always understood. We examined nocturnal tuft display in male malachite sunbirds (Nectarinia famosa) and found that they display their pectoral tufts almost continuously throughout the night, whilst asleep. We suggest the possible function of this behaviour and suggest that these tufts might be a deterrent to predators, as they look like ‘eyes’ in the dark. A review of the use and occurrence of pectoral tufts in southern African sunbird species is also discussed. We suggest the ‘anti-predator’ hypothesis be investigated further.
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