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Purple-rumped sunbirds are tiny at less than 10 cm long. They have medium-length thin down-curved bills and brush-tipped tubular tongues, both adaptations for nectar feeding. Purple-rumped sunbirds are sexually dimorphic. The males have a dark maroon upperside with a blue-green crown that glistens at some angles, bright green shoulder patch and violet/purple rump patch which is generally hidden under the wings. The underparts are whitish with dark throat, maroon breast band and purple/violet patch in the throat which is visible in some angles. The iris is generally reddish in color. In the Western Ghats, it can overlap in some areas with the crimson-backed sunbird but the male of that species has reddish upperparts, a broader breast band and generally darker eyes. The female has a white throat followed by yellowish breast. The upperside is olive or brownish. The uppertail coverts are black and a weak supercilium may be visible. The nominate subspecies from Sri Lanka has a more bluish violet throat whereas the Indian form flaviventris (two other proposed populations whistleri from Maddur in Karnataka and sola from Pondicherry are subsumed) has a more pinkish tinge. Their call is ptsiee ptsit, ptsiee ptsswit or a sharp twittering tityou, titou, trrrtit, tityou...