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Nectariniidae

Sunbird
Orange-breasted Sunbird Anthobaphes violacea ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The Nectariniidae is a passerine family of mostly very small sunbirds and spiderhunters. There are 143 species in 16 genera. They are small, slender passerines from the Old World, usually with downward-curved bills. Many are brightly coloured, often with iridescent feathers, particularly in the males. Many species also have especially long tail feathers. Their range extends from Africa to Australia, across Madagascar, Egypt, Iran, Yemen, southern China, the Indian subcontinent, the Indochinese peninsulas, the Philippines, Southeast Asia and the surrounding Pacific islands, and the uppermost part of northern Australia. The number of species is greater in equatorial and tropical regions.

Most sunbirds feed largely on nectar, but also take insects and spiders, especially when feeding young. Flower tubes that bar access to nectar because of their shape, are simply punctured at the base near the nectaries. Fruit is also part of the diet of some species. Their flight is fast and direct on their short wings.

In metabolic behaviour similar to that of Andes hummingbirds, species of sunbirds that live at high altitudes or latitudes will enter torpor while roosting at night, lowering their body temperature and entering a state of low activity and responsiveness.

They occupy a wide range of habitats, with a majority of species being found in primary rainforest, but other habitats used by the family including disturbed secondary forest, open woodland, open scrub and savannah, coastal scrub and alpine forest. Some species have readily adapted to human modified landscapes such as plantations, gardens and agricultural land. Many species are able to occupy a wide range of habitats from sea level to 4900m.

The sunbirds have counterparts in two very distantly related groups: the hummingbirds of the Americas and the honeyeaters of Australia. The resemblances are due to convergent evolution brought about by a similar nectar-feeding lifestyle. Some sunbird species can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, but usually perch to feed.

There are 143 sunbirds and spiderhunters in the family Nectariniidae; they are:

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis

Fraser's Sunbird Deleornis fraseri
Grey-headed Sunbird Deleornis axillaris

Plain-backed Sunbird Anthreptes reichenowi
Anchieta's Sunbird Anthreptes anchietae
Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex
Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
Grey-throated Sunbird Anthreptes griseigularis
Red-throated Sunbird Anthreptes rhodolaemus
Mangrove Sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus
Western Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes longuemarei
Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes orientalis
Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes neglectus
Violet-tailed Sunbird Anthreptes aurantius
Little Green Sunbird Anthreptes seimundi
Grey-chinned Sunbird Anthreptes rectirostris
Banded Green Sunbird Anthreptes rubritorques

Collared Sunbird Hedydipna collaris
Pygmy Sunbird Hedydipna platura
Nile Valley Sunbird Hedydipna metallica
Amani Sunbird Hedydipna pallidigaster

Purple-naped Sunbird Hypogramma hypogrammicum

Reichenbach's Sunbird Anabathmis reichenbachii
Principe Sunbird Anabathmis hartlaubii
Newton's Sunbird Anabathmis newtonii

Giant Sunbird Dreptes thomensis

Orange-breasted Sunbird Anthobaphes violacea

Green-headed Sunbird Cyanomitra verticalis
Bannerman's Sunbird Cyanomitra bannermani
Blue-throated Brown Sunbird Cyanomitra cyanolaema
Cameroon Sunbird Cyanomitra oritis
Blue-headed Sunbird Cyanomitra alinae
Olive Sunbird Cyanomitra olivacea
Grey Sunbird Cyanomitra veroxii

Buff-throated Sunbird Chalcomitra adelberti
Carmelite Sunbird Chalcomitra fuliginosa
Green-throated Sunbird Chalcomitra rubescens
Amethyst Sunbird Chalcomitra amethystina
Scarlet-chested Sunbird Chalcomitra senegalensis
Hunter's Sunbird Chalcomitra hunteri
Socotra Sunbird Chalcomitra balfouri

Purple-rumped Sunbird Leptocoma zeylonica
Crimson-backed Sunbird Leptocoma minima
Purple-throated Sunbird Leptocoma sperata
Van Hasselt's Sunbird Leptocoma brasiliana
Black Sunbird Leptocoma aspasia
Copper-throated Sunbird Leptocoma calcostetha

Bocage's Sunbird Nectarinia bocagii
Purple-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia purpureiventris
Tacazze Sunbird Nectarinia tacazze
Bronzy Sunbird Nectarinia kilimensis
Malachite Sunbird Nectarinia famosa
Scarlet-tufted Sunbird Nectarinia johnstoni

Golden-winged Sunbird Drepanorhynchus reichenowi

Olive-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris chloropygius
Tiny Sunbird Cinnyris minullus
Miombo Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris manoensis
Southern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris chalybeus
Neergaard's Sunbird Cinnyris neergaardi
Ruwenzori Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris stuhlmanni
Prigogine's Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris prigoginei
Ludwig's Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris ludovicensis
Northern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris reichenowi
Greater Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris afer
Regal Sunbird Cinnyris regius
Rockefeller's Sunbird Cinnyris rockefelleri
Eastern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris mediocris
Usambara Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris usambaricus
Forest Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris fuelleborni
Moreau's Sunbird Cinnyris moreaui
Loveridge's Sunbird Cinnyris loveridgei
Beautiful Sunbird Cinnyris pulchellus
Marico Sunbird Cinnyris mariquensis
Shelley's Sunbird Cinnyris shelleyi
Hofmann's Sunbird Cinnyris hofmanni
Congo Sunbird Cinnyris congensis
Red-chested Sunbird Cinnyris erythrocercus
Black-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris nectarinioides
Purple-banded Sunbird Cinnyris bifasciatus
Tsavo Sunbird Cinnyris tsavoensis
Violet-breasted Sunbird Cinnyris chalcomelas
Pemba Sunbird Cinnyris pembae
Orange-tufted Sunbird Cinnyris bouvieri
Palestine Sunbird Cinnyris osea
Shining Sunbird Cinnyris habessinicus
Splendid Sunbird Cinnyris coccinigastrus
Johanna's Sunbird Cinnyris johannae
Superb Sunbird Cinnyris superbus
Rufous-winged Sunbird Cinnyris rufipennis
Oustalet's Sunbird Cinnyris oustaleti
White-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris talatala
Variable Sunbird Cinnyris venustus
Dusky Sunbird Cinnyris fuscus
Ursula's Sunbird Cinnyris ursulae
Bates's Sunbird Cinnyris batesi
Copper Sunbird Cinnyris cupreus
Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus
Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis
Apricot-breasted Sunbird Cinnyris buettikoferi
Flame-breasted Sunbird Cinnyris solaris
Souimanga Sunbird Cinnyris sovimanga
Abbott's Sunbird Cinnyris abbotti
Malagasy Green Sunbird Cinnyris notatus
Seychelles Sunbird Cinnyris dussumieri
Humblot's Sunbird Cinnyris humbloti
Anjouan Sunbird Cinnyris comorensis
Mayotte Sunbird Cinnyris coquerellii
Loten's Sunbird Cinnyris lotenius

Grey-hooded Sunbird Aethopyga primigenia
Apo Sunbird Aethopyga boltoni
Lina's Sunbird Aethopyga linaraborae
Flaming Sunbird Aethopyga flagrans
Maroon-naped Sunbird Aethopyga guimarasensis
Metallic-winged Sunbird Aethopyga pulcherrima
Luzon Sunbird Aethopyga jefferyi
Bohol Sunbird Aethopyga decorosa
Elegant Sunbird Aethopyga duyvenbodei
Lovely Sunbird Aethopyga shelleyi
Handsome Sunbird Aethopyga bella
Mrs. Gould's Sunbird Aethopyga gouldiae
Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis
White-flanked Sunbird Aethopyga eximia
Fork-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga christinae
Black-throated Sunbird Aethopyga saturata
Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja
Magnificent Sunbird Aethopyga magnifica
Vigors's Sunbird Aethopyga vigorsii
Javan Sunbird Aethopyga mystacalis
Temminck's Sunbird Aethopyga temminckii
Fire-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga ignicauda

Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra
Orange-tufted Spiderhunter Arachnothera flammifera
Pale Spiderhunter Arachnothera dilutior
Thick-billed Spiderhunter Arachnothera crassirostris
Long-billed Spiderhunter Arachnothera robusta
Spectacled Spiderhunter Arachnothera flavigaster
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter Arachnothera chrysogenys
Naked-faced Spiderhunter Arachnothera clarae
Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera modesta
Streaky-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera affinis
Bornean Spiderhunter Arachnothera everetti
Streaked Spiderhunter Arachnothera magna
Whitehead's Spiderhunter Arachnothera juliae

Family Links

Sunbirds Nectariniidae

Family Account

Small, slender passerines with long, usually decurved bill, some with long tail; many brightly coloured, most with some iridescence, particularly in male…

Sunbirds Nectariniidae

HBW Family Account

Annotated species list.

Sunbirds Nectariniidae

Family Account

Sunbirds are small jewels of the Old World tropics. Many species possess glittering iridescent colors. In this feature, plus their small size and their nectar feeding behavior, they recall the hummingbirds.

Sunbirds Nectariniidae

Family Account

The sunbirds and spiderhunters make up a family, Nectariniidae, of passerine birds.

Species Links

Beautiful Sunbird Cinnyris pulchellus

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Certhia pulchella Linnaeus, 1766, Senegal. Genus often subsumed in Nectarinia. It has been suggested that this species and C. nectarinioides link the “C. mariquensis complex” with the “C. chalybeus complex”. Proposed races aeger (described from Aïr, in Niger) and lucidipectus (from Wad Medani, on Blue Nile in EC Sudan) considered inseparable from nominate. Two subspecies recognized.

Beautiful Sunbird Cinnyris pulchellus

Species Account

The beautiful sunbird (Cinnyris pulchella; formerly placed in the genus Nectarinia) is a sunbird. It is native to tropical Africa, its range extending from Senegal and Guinea in the west to Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya in the east.

Beautiful Sunbird Cinnyris pulchellus

BirdLife Species Account

Beautiful Sunbird Cinnyris pulchellus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis

Species Account

The green-tailed sunbird (Aethopyga nipalensis) or Nepal yellow-backed sunbird is a species of bird in the family Nectariniidae. It ranges across the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent, stretching eastwards into parts of Southeast Asia.

Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Cinnyris nipalensis Hodgson, 1837, Chandragiri Pass, central Nepal. Race horsfieldi intergrades with nominate in W Nepal. In India, proposed race griseiceps (from Ghoom, near Darjeeling) considered inseparable from nominate and ripleyi (from Mawryngkneng, in Khasi Hills) synonymized with koelzi. Nine subspecies recognized.

Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis

BirdLife Species Account

Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra

IBC Species Account

Images etc…

Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra

Species Account

The Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra) is a species of long-billed nectar feeding bird in the Nectariniidae family found in the moist forests of South and Southeast Asia….

Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis

Species Account

The olive-backed sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis), also known as the yellow-bellied sunbird, is a species of sunbird found from Southern Asia to Australia.

Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Certhia jugularis Linnaeus, 1766, Philippine Islands.

Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis

BirdLife Species Account

Palestine Sunbird Cinnyris oseus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Palestine Sunbird Cinnyris oseus

BirdLife Species Account

Full species account...

Palestine Sunbird Cinnyris oseus

Species Account

The Palestine sunbird or northern orange-tufted sunbird (Cinnyris osea) is a small passerine bird of the sunbird family which is found in parts of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. It is also known as orange-tufted sunbird, a name which is also used for the similar orange-tufted sunbird (Cinnyris bouvieri), found further south in Africa...

Whitehead's Spiderhunter Arachnothera juliae

Species Account

The Whitehead's spiderhunter (Arachnothera juliae) is a species of bird in the Nectariniidae family. It is endemic to the island of Borneo. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.It is named after the British explorer John Whitehead (1860-1899) who collected natural history specimens in Borneo and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.…

Whitehead's Spiderhunter Arachnothera juliae

BirdLife Species Account

Full species account...

Whitehead's Spiderhunter Arachnothera juliae

IBC Species Account

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 143

Useful Reading

Sunbirds - A Guide to the Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers, Spidererhunters & Sugarbirds of the World

by Robert A Cheke, Clive F Mann and Richard Allen Helm

ISBN: 1873403801

Buy this book from NHBS.com