Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)

Crimson-backed Sunbird (Leptocoma minima)The sunbirds and spiderhunters are very small birds that mostly inhabit forested areas, however, some subspecies occur in patches of vegetation in deserts.

Many of its species have a very colorful plumage with iridescent colors. Like hummingbirds and the Australian honeyeaters, sunbirds are nectar eaters and they share some physical similarities, but they are not related. The resemblances are due to convergent evolution due to the similar nectar-feeding lifestyle. Like hummers, sunbirds can hover at flowers, but they usually perch to feed


Distribution / Range

The sunbirds are distributed in tropical Africa and the forests of southeast Asia, including the Greater Sundas and the Philippines. Most species are found in Africa.

Sunbirds are sedentary or short-distance seasonal migrants.



Sunbirds are strongly sexually dimorphic.

The adult males usually have brilliantly colored plumage, while the females and the young are duller in coloration.

Sunbirds have long thin down-curved bills and brush tipped tubular tongues – both adaptations to their nectar feeding.

Crimson-backed Sunbird (Leptocoma minima) - Female


Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja

Diet / Feeding

Sunbirds mostly feed on nectar, although take insects particularly during the breeding season to feed their young and to satisfy their own need for increased protein in their diet during this demanding time.

They favor flowers with the highest sugar content and seek out those areas containing flowers with high energy nectar.

Even though sunbirds can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, most usually perch while taking nectar.

The males establish feeding territories on flower bearing shrubs and trees, which they aggressively defend.

Many native and cultivated plants on whose flowers sunbirds feed heavily rely on them for pollination. The mostly tubular-shaped flowers actually exclude most bees and butterflies from feeding on them and, subsequently, from pollinating the plants.

Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus)


Breeding / Nesting

Sunbird pairs build the purse-shaped, moss-covered nest together – although the female takes on the part of lining the nest. The nest is often suspended from the underside of large fern fronds, or thin branch of a low tree or shrub.

A clutch consists of 1 to 3 eggs (average 2) which are mostly incubated by the female for about 18 – 19 days. The male assists with feeding the young.



Female Sunbird

Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja) - or Yellow-backed Sunbird - Female


Family: Nectariniidae

  • Genus Chalcoparia (sometimes included in Anthreptes)
    • Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Chalcoparia singalensis LC

    Genus Deleornis (sometimes included in Anthreptes)

    • Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Deleornis fraseri LC
    • Grey-headed Sunbird, Deleornis axillaris (sometimes considered subspecies of D. fraseri) LC

    Genus Anthreptes

    • Plain-backed Sunbird, Anthreptes reichenowi NT
    • Anchieta’s Sunbird, Anthreptes anchietae LC
    • Plain Sunbird, Anthreptes simplex LC
    • Plain-throated Sunbird, Anthreptes malacensis LC
    • Red-throated Sunbird, Anthreptes rhodolaemus NT
    • Mouse-brown Sunbird, Anthreptes gabonicus LC
    • Western Violet-backed Sunbird, Anthreptes longuemarei LC
    • Kenya Violet-backed Sunbird, Anthreptes orientalis LC
    • Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird, Anthreptes neglectus LC
    • Violet-tailed Sunbird, Anthreptes aurantium LC
    • Little Green Sunbird, Anthreptes seimundi (sometimes included in Nectarinia) LC
    • Green Sunbird, Anthreptes rectirostris LC
    • Banded Sunbird, Anthreptes rubritorques VU

    Genus Hedydipna (sometimes included in Anthreptes)

    • Collared Sunbird, Hedydipna collaris LC
    • Pygmy Sunbird, Hedydipna platura LC
    • Nile Valley Sunbird, Hedydipna metallica LC
    • Amani Sunbird, Hedydipna pallidigaster EN

    Genus Hypogramma

    • Purple-naped Sunbird, Hypogramma hypogrammicum LC

    Genus Anabathmis (sometimes included in Nectarinia)

    • Reichenbach’s Sunbird, Anabathmis reichenbachii LC
    • Principe Sunbird, Anabathmis hartlaubii LC
    • Newton’s Sunbird, Anabathmis newtonii LC

    Genus Dreptes (sometimes included in Nectarinia)

    • Sao Tome Sunbird, Dreptes thomensis VU

    Genus Anthobaphes (sometimes included in Nectarinia)

    Genus Cyanomitra (sometimes included in Nectarinia)

    • Green-headed Sunbird, Cyanomitra verticalis LC
    • Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Cyanomitra cyanolaema LC
    • Blue-headed Sunbird, Cyanomitra alinae LC
    • Cameroon Sunbird, Cyanomitra oritis LC
    • Bannerman’s Sunbird, Cyanomitra bannermani LC
    • Eastern Olive Sunbird, Cyanomitra olivacea LC
    • Western Olive Sunbird, Cyanomitra obscura LC
    • Mouse-colored Sunbird, Cyanomitra veroxii LC

    Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Chalcomitra senegalensis, Mutamaiyu Mugie Lodge, Laikipia, Kenya, Africa Genus Chalcomitra (sometimes included in Nectarinia)

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

    Genus Leptocoma (sometimes included in Nectarinia)

    • Purple-rumped Sunbird, Leptocoma zeylonica LC
    • Crimson-backed Sunbird, Leptocoma minima LC
    • Copper-throated Sunbird, Leptocoma calcostetha LC
    • Purple-throated Sunbird, Leptocoma sperata LC
    • Black Sunbird, Leptocoma sericea (formerly Nectarinia aspasia) LC

    Genus Nectarinia

    • Bocage’s Sunbird, Nectarinia bocagii LC
    • Purple-breasted Sunbird, Nectarinia purpureiventris LC
    • Tacazze Sunbird, Nectarinia tacazze LC
    • Bronze Sunbird, Nectarinia kilimensis LC
    • Golden-winged Sunbird, Nectarinia reichenowi LC
    • Red-tufted Sunbird, Nectarinia johnstoni LC
    • Malachite Sunbird, Nectarinia famosa LC

    Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Cinnyris reichenowi, Sarara Camp, Namunyak Wildlife Conservation, Kenya, Africa Genus Cinnyris (sometimes included in Nectarinia)

    • Olive-bellied Sunbird, Cinnyris chloropygius LC
    • Tiny Sunbird, Cinnyris minullus LC
    • Miombo Sunbird, Cinnyris manoensis LC
    • Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cinnyris chalybeus LC
    • Northern Double-collared Sunbirds, Cinnyris reichenowi
    • Neergaard’s Sunbird, Cinnyris neergaardi NT
    • Stuhlmann’s Sunbird, Cinnyris stuhlmanni (sometimes considered subspecies of C. afer) NT
    • Prigogine’s Sunbird, Cinnyris prigoginei (sometimes considered subspecies of C. afer) NT
    • Montane Double-collared Sunbird, Cinnyris ludovicensis LC
    • Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Cinnyris preussi LC
    • Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Cinnyris afer LC
    • Regal Sunbird, Cinnyris regius LC
    • Rockefeller’s Sunbird, Cinnyris rockefelleri VU
    • Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, Cinnyris mediocris LC
    • Moreau’s Sunbird, Cinnyris moreaui NT
    • Beautiful Sunbird, Cinnyris pulchellus LC
    • Loveridge’s Sunbird, Cinnyris loveridgei LC
    • Mariqua Sunbird, Cinnyris mariquensis LC
    • Shelley’s Sunbird, Cinnyris shelleyi LC
    • Congo Sunbird, Cinnyris congensis LC
    • Red-chested Sunbird, Cinnyris erythrocerca LC
    • Black-bellied Sunbird, Cinnyris nectarinioides LC
    • Purple-banded Sunbird, Cinnyris bifasciatus LC
    • Tsavo Sunbird, Cinnyris tsavoensis (sometimes considered subspecies of C. bifasciatus) LC
    • Violet-breasted Sunbird, Cinnyris chalcomelas LC
    • Pemba Sunbird, Cinnyris pembae LC
    • Orange-tufted Sunbird, Cinnyris bouvieri LC
    • Palestine Sunbird, Cinnyris oseus LC
    • Shining Sunbird, Cinnyris habessinicus LC
    • Splendid Sunbird, Cinnyris coccinigaster LC
    • Johanna’s Sunbird, Cinnyris johannae LC
    • Superb Sunbird, Cinnyris superbus LC
    • Rufous-winged Sunbird, Cinnyris rufipennis VU
    • Oustalet’s Sunbird, Cinnyris oustaleti LC
    • White-breasted Sunbird, Cinnyris talatala LC
    • Variable Sunbird, Cinnyris venustus LC
    • Dusky Sunbird, Cinnyris fuscus LC
    • Ursula’s Sunbird, Cinnyris ursulae NT
    • Bates’ Sunbird, Cinnyris batesi LC
    • Copper Sunbird, Cinnyris cupreus LC
    • Purple Sunbird, Cinnyris asiaticus LC
    • Olive-backed Sunbird, Cinnyris jugularis LC
    • Apricot-breasted Sunbird, Cinnyris buettikoferi LC
    • Flame-breasted Sunbird, Cinnyris solaris LC
    • Souimanga Sunbird, Cinnyris sovimanga LC
    • Seychelles Sunbird, Cinnyris dussumieri LC
    • Madagascar Sunbird, Cinnyris notatus LC
    • Humblot’s Sunbird, Cinnyris humbloti LC
    • Anjouan Sunbird, Cinnyris comorensis LC
    • Mayotte Sunbird, Cinnyris coquerellii LC
    • Long-billed Sunbird, Cinnyris lotenius LC

    Little SpiderhunterGenus Aethopyga

    • Gray-hooded Sunbird, Aethopyga primigenia NT
    • Mount Apo Sunbird, Aethopyga boltoni NT
    • Lina’s Sunbird, Aethopyga linaraborae NT
    • Flaming Sunbird, Aethopyga flagrans LC
    • Metallic-winged Sunbird, Aethopyga pulcherrima LC
    • Elegant Sunbird, Aethopyga duyvenbodei EN
    • Lovely Sunbird, Aethopyga shelleyi LC
    • Handsome Sunbird, Aethopyga belli LC
    • Gould’s Sunbird, Aethopyga gouldiae LC
    • White-flanked Sunbird, Aethopyga eximia LC
    • Green-tailed Sunbird, Aethopyga nipalensis LC
    • Fork-tailed Sunbird, Aethopyga christinae LC
    • Black-throated Sunbird, Aethopyga saturata LC
    • Western Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga vigorsii (sometimes considered subspecies of A. siparaja) LC
    • Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja LC
    • Scarlet Sunbird, Aethopyga mystacalis LC
    • Temminck’s Sunbird, Aethopyga temminckii (sometimes considered subspecies of A. mystacalis) LC
    • Fire-tailed Sunbird, Aethopyga ignicauda LC

    Genus Arachnothera – spiderhunters

    • Thick-billed Spiderhunter, Arachnothera crassirostris LC
    • Spectacled Spiderhunter, Arachnothera flavigaster LC
    • Long-billed Spiderhunter, Arachnothera robusta LC
    • Little Spiderhunter, Arachnothera longirostra LC
    • Yellow-eared Spiderhunter, Arachnothera chrysogenys LC
    • Naked-faced Spiderhunter, Arachnothera clarae LC
    • Gray-breasted Spiderhunter, Arachnothera modesta (sometimes considered subspecies of A. affinis) LC
    • Streaky-breasted Spiderhunter, Arachnothera affinis LC
    • Bornean Spiderhunter, Arachnothera everetti LC
    • Streaked Spiderhunter, Arachnothera magna LC
    • Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, Arachnothera juliae LC

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson


The Avianweb strives to maintain accurate and up-to-date information; however, mistakes do happen. If you would like to correct or update any of the information, please send us an e-mail. THANK YOU!