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Promeropidae - Sugarbirds

Sugarbird
Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The Promeropidae make up a small genus, Promerops, and the family of sugarbirds, which are passerines restricted to southern Africa. In general appearance as well as habits they resemble large long-tailed sunbirds, but are possibly more closely related to the Australian honeyeaters. They have brownish plumage, the long down-curved bill typical of passerine nectar feeders, and long tail feathers.

The Gurney's Sugarbird is found from Zimbabwe southwards, except the extreme south of South Africa, where it is replaced by the Cape Sugarbird in the Cape provinces of South Africa. It has at times been considered conspecific with Gurney's. The distribution of the Gurney's sugarbird is disjunct, and currently there are two accepted subspecies, one in the north and one further south.

Sugarbirds are dependent on Protea and are found in protea scrub. The Cape Sugarbird is found in fynbos and has also moved into gardens and nurseries.

The two sugarbird species are medium-sized passerines that weight between 26g and 46g and are 23cm to 44cm in length. Between to 15cm and 38cm of that length is in their massive elongated tails, with the tails of the Cape Sugarbird being overall longer than those of the Gurney's Sugarbird. In both species the tail of the male is longer than the female, although the difference is more pronounced in the Cape Sugarbird. In overall body size the males are slightly larger and heavier than the females. Both species have long and slender bills that are slightly curved, and again the females have a slightly shorter bill, leading to differences in feeding niches. The skull and tongue morphology of the sugarbirds is very similar to that of the honeyeaters, the result of convergent evolution. The tongue is long and protrusible, and is tubular and frilled at the end.

Nectar from the inflorescences of the Protea provide most of the energy these species require, and they are considered significant pollinators of the genus. The birds' diet is supplemented by insects attracted to the inflorescences. Studies of the diets of sugarbirds found that bees in the family Apidae and flies formed a large part of the diet and that the insects were obtained by hawking.

The breeding behaviour and nesting habits of the two species of sugarbird are very similar. They are monogamous, and male sugarbirds defend territories during the breeding season. Females lay two eggs in a nest in a fork of a tree.

According to the IOC there are just 2 Sugarbirds. They are:

Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer
Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi

Family Links

Sugarbirds Promeropidae

HBW Family Account

Annotated species list

Sugarbirds Promeropidae

Species Account

The Sugarbirds are a small family of African passerines. Traditionally there were just two species of sugarbirds (genus Promerops) endemic to southern Africa, but molecular research suggests that three more drab 'thrush-like' birds are closely related.

Sugarbirds Promeropidae

Family Account

The sugarbirds make up a small genus, Promerops, and the family Promeropidae, of passerine birds which are restricted to southern Africa.

Species Links

Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer

Species Account

Species account…

Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer

HBW Species Account

Species account with images etc…

Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer

BirdLife Species Account

Full species account...

Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Promerops gurneyi J. Verreaux, 1871, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Forms a superspecies with P. cafer; some evidence of former hybridization between the two in Eastern Cape. Races separated geographically, and perhaps ecologically isolated; research required on possible taxonomic implications. Two subspecies recognized.

Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi

Species Account

The Gurney's sugarbird (Promerops gurneyi) is a species of bird in the Promeropidae family.

Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi

BirdLife Species Account

Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 2