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Amethyst Sunbird
(Nectarinia amethystina)

Amethyst Sunbird

General description

The male Amethyst Sunbird has an all-black body, metallic green forecrown and iridescent reddish-purple throat and shoulder patches.

The female is generally dull greyish-brown on the back with a paler speckled underside. The pale eyebrow differentiates it from the female Scarlet-chested Sunbird.

The complex song is a loud, sustained twittering.

Name & classification

Scientific name:
Nectarinia amethystina

Common names:
Amethyst Sunbird (English)
Swartsuikerbekkie (Afrikaans)

Black Sunbird, Chalcomitra amethystina

Roberts VII english name:
Amethyst Sunbird

Roberts VII scientific name:
Chalcomitra amethystina

Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)

Further information



Food includes emergent termites, spiders and nectar.

Though mostly found singly or in pairs, larger numbers may concentrate at favourite flowering trees, where they act aggressively towards other sunbird species.

In courtship a male will hop about a branch near a female, droop one wing, then the other, and finally both wings. The wings will then be fluttered and displayed. A responsive female may lower her head, and assume a rigid posture.

Breeding pairs are widely spaced, and the female builds the nest. Favoured trees include exotic eucalypts and pines, and are often close to buildings or human activity. Nests are attached to a drooping branch, below the canopy, or hidden by foliage.

Thick-walled oval nests with hooded entrances are built from fine grass stems, which are bound together with cobweb. The nest is often decorated with lichens or other debris.

Two speckled eggs are laid, but successive clutches may be raised from the same nest in a single season. Nests are parasitized by Green-backed Honeybird and Klaas's Cuckoo.

Natural distribution:
It is native to the Afrotropics, mostly south of the equator.

They are commonly found in well-watered habitats, and undertake seasonal movements to visit flowering woodlands. The demise of some woodlands have impacted their numbers locally, but their range has also expanded along with the spread of wooded gardens.

They are widespread residents of woodland, mesic savanna, forest edge and suburban gardens. They occur only sparsely in dry savanna or low dry regions where they keep to riparian woods or concentrations of nectar-bearing plants and are decidedly scarce in the Limpopo valley and mopane regions.

A distinct summer influx is notable in the Zambezi valley and Great Zimbabwe woodlands and they are strictly summer visitors (September/October to April) to the Kalahari sand (or Gusu) woodlands where they appear in high densities when the Baikiaea trees are in flower. On seaward-facing slopes, they are very common residents up to 1,800 metres with high reporting rates in afromontane forest and valley bushveld.

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