Nectariniidae (sunbirds, spiderhunters…)

Number of genera: 17
Number of species: 143
Number of species completed: 20
In French: page des souimangas en Français

This family is the most widespread among the nectar-eating passerines. It is widely found in Africa, in Asia (including Middle-East) and more locally in Autralia. In this country, most ecological niches suitables for sunbirds are actually taken over by honeyeaters (Meliphagidae).

First nectar specialists passerines were probably found in Africa and evolved from insectivorous species. Indeed, the basal families of the super-family that includes sunbirds (called Passeroidea) are sugarbirds (Promeropidae) and (Modulatricidae) ; both are Africans with the former feeding in large flowers while the latter forage on the ground for invertabrates. The common ancestor of all the sunbirds and flowerpeckers probably left Africa for southern Asia where it quickly split into two clades, Nectariniidae (sunbirds) and Dicaeidae (flowerpeckers). Spiderhunters and Purple-naped Sunbird are basal and restricted to southern Asia while “true” (or “modern”) sunbirds has spread over most of Asia including Middle-East, Africa and Northern Australasia.


Genus Kurochkinegramma – 1 species

Very unusual species with unique morphology. It is though clearly related to spiderhunters and might be basal of the whole family.

It is a widespread bird from Myanmar to Borneo and Sumatra (Indonesia).

Purple-naped Sunbird Kurochkinegramma hypogrammicum – ND


Genus Arachnothera – 13 species

Spiderhunters are large sunbirds that forms the main basal clade of the family, related (possibly sister) to the monotypic Kurochinegramma. Their phenotype are quite homogeneous. Some are restricted endemics (mainly in the Philippines and in Indonesia) and others are widespread but none is threatened. This genus exists only in Southern Asia.

* Thick-billed Spiderhunter Arachnothera crassirostris
Long-billed Spiderhunter Arachnothera robusta – NA
* Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra
Palawan Spiderhunter Arachnothera dilutior – OR, E (Philippines)
Orange-tufted Spiderhunter Arachnothera flammifera – ON R., E (Philippines)
Whitehead’s Spiderhunter Arachnothera juliae – OR., E (Borneo)
Naked-faced Spiderhunter Arachnothera clarae – NA, E (Philippines)
* Yellow-eared Spiderhunter Arachnothera chrysogenys
Spectacled Spiderhunter Arachnothera flavigaster – NA
Streaked Spiderhunter Arachnothera magna – NA
Streaky-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera affinis – NA, E (Indonesia)
Bornean Spiderhunter Arachnothera everetti – NA, E (Borneo)
* Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera modesta


Genus Chalcoparia – 1 species

The single species of this genus is somehow mysterious and its position is still unsettled. According to its behaviour and shape, it is related to Anthreptes and possibly basal of all “true” sunbirds, but this is to be confirmed.

It is only seen in South-East Asia, from Eastern India to Borneo and Java (Indonesia) where it is locally common.

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis – NA

Genus Anthreptes – 16 species

This genus of short-billed, small sunbirds might deserve to be split. The first four species of the list below are all Asians and they can be considered as the “true” Anthreptes.

The rest of the species are all Africans. Although structurally similar, there are information that placing them in different African genera (Hedydipna, Deleornis) mifght be more appropriate.

Most are common but one Tanzanian endemic (Banded Green Sunbird) is threatened and its survival depends on the protection of the mountain forests of the Eastern Arc.


* Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex
* Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
Grey-throated Sunbird Anthreptes griseigularis – NA, E (Philippines)
Red-throated Sunbird Anthreptes rhodolaemus – NA
Plain-backed Sunbird Anthreptes reichenowi – Special target
* Anchieta’s Sunbird Anthreptes anchietae
Mangrove Sunbird Anthreptes gabonica – ND
Western Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes longuemarei – NA
* Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes orientalis – NA
Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes neglecta – NA
Violet-tailed Sunbird Anthreptes aurantia – NA
Little Green Sunbird Anthreptes seimundi – NA
Bates’s Sunbird Anthreptes batesi – NA
Green Sunbird Anthreptes rectirostris – NA
* Grey-chinned Sunbird Anthreptes tephrolaemus
Banded Green Sunbird Anthreptes rubritorques -SP, VULN, E (Tanzania)

Genus Hedydipna – 4 species

Although now widely accepted as such, this genus might be completely changed with Collared Sunbird removed and placed in its monotypic genus Anthodiaeta and several African Anthreptes that can enventually end here. More studies are needed.

The four are retricted to the Afrotropics. They are generally common but Amani Sunbid is a rare and endangered species found in two mountain ranges in Tanzania and a coastal forest in Kenya.

* Collared Sunbird Hedydipna collaris
Pygmy Sunbird Hedydipna platura – NA
Nile Valley Sunbird Hedydipna metallica – NA
Amani Sunbird Hedydipna pallidigaster – SP, ENDANGERED

Genus Anabathmis – 3 species

The position if this small African genus is still uncertain. It might actually be basal of all African sunbirds, if these prove to form a monophyletic group. They are not rare, but two are endemic to small and little-visited gulf of Guinea islands and the third one is mainy seen in remote central African mainland countries. That explains why they are under-studied. In the field, they superficially recall Cyanomitra.

Reichenbach’s Sunbird Anabathmis reichenbachii – NA
Principe Sunbird Anabathmis hartlaubii – OR, E (Principe)
Newton’s Sunbird Anabathmis newtonii – OR, E (Sao Tome)

Genus Cyanomitra – 7 species

This genus group only African species. Some are widespead, notably the Olive Sunbird, but mot have a restricted range. They are usually common and none is threatened.

Classification need to be improved : for instance, it is possible than the two last species of the list should be transfered to Nectarinia while Golden-winged Sunbird (Drepanorhynchus) might finally prove to be a Cyanomitra.

* Green-headed Sunbird Cyanomitra verticalis
Bannerman’s Sunbird Cyanomitra bannermani – NA
Blue-throated Brown Sunbird Cyanomitra cyanolaema – NA
Cameroon Sunbird Cyanomitra oritis – NA
* Blue-headed Sunbird Cyanomitra alinae
Olive Sunbird Nectarinia olivacea – NA
Grey Sunbird Nectarinia veroxii – NA

Genus Drepanorhynchus – 1 species

This spectacular sunbird was long lincuded in Nectarinia and its shape indeed recall the next genus. It is nevertheless genetically distant and deserves a separated genus or it might be better included in Cyanomitra. It is to be confirmed. It is restricted to Eastern Africa.

* Golden-winged Sunbird Drepanorhynchus reichenowi

Genus Nectarinia – 6 species

Originally, most sunbirds have been placed in this genus that grouped dozens of species. As soon as studies have shown that it was not realistic, several genera were created (or resurrected) to classified former Nectarinia, notably Cinnyris, Chalcomitra, Cyanomitra, Anthobaphes, etc.

Therefore, only six long-tailed species that live in temperate zones of Africa (high tropical mountains to Southern African lowlands) are still kept in the nominal genus of the family.

This classification might still need to evolve. The two “true” Nectarinia, at the bottom of the list, are green in colour. The others can be called “bronzy sunbirds” are possibly Chalcomitra. Two species listed in Cyanomitra, Grey and Olive Sunbirds might be better placed here.

All are common, but some have very limited range, especially Bocage’s and Red-tufted Sunbirds.

Bocage’s Sunbird Chalcomitra bocagii – Special target
Purple-breasted Sunbird Chalcomitra purpureiventris – NA
Tacazze Sunbird Chalcomitra tacazze – NA
* Bronze Sunbird Nectarinia kilimensis
* Malachite Sunbird Nectarinia famosa
Red-tufted Sunbird Nectarinia johnstoni – On request


Genus Chalcomitra – 7 species

This small genus is widespread in Africa, South of the Sahara. It is formed by six species whose male plumages show mainly a dark brown or blackish colour with bright optical colour patches on crown, throat and/or breast. Females are much duller, very different from males. The seventh species listed below, endemic to Socotra, is very distinct. There’s no sexual dimorphism : both sexes show a plumage recalling immature males of other Chalcomitra ; it can be a case of pedomorphism. It is also possible that including this unusual species in Chalcomitra is actually inappropriate. It has been suggested that Socotra Sunbird is, in fact, a Cinnyris.

* Scarlet-chested Sunbird Chalcomitra senegalensis
* Hunter’s Sunbird Chalcomitra hunteri
Buff-throated Sunbird Chalcomitra adelberti – NA
Carmelite Sunbird Chalcomitra fuliginosa – NA
Green-throated Sunbird Chalcomitra rubescens – NA
* Amethyst Sunbird Chalcomitra amethystina
Socotra Sunbird Cinnyris balfouri – OR, E (Socotra)

Genus Deleornis – 2 species

Those sunbirds of tropical Africa, sometimes grouped in one species, have long been placed in Anthreptes. It is possible than other Anthreptes (also from tropical Africa) deserves the genus Deleornis, precisely: Little Green sunbird, Bates’s Sunbird, Green Sunbird, Grey-chinned Sunbird and Banded Green Sunbird.


Fraser’s Sunbird Deleornis fraseri – NA
Grey-headed Sunbird Deleornis axillaris – NA

Genus Dreptes – 1 species

This sunbird, endemic to the island of Sao Tome, is the largest in the world. In addition to its spectacular size, it has an unusually dull plumage for a sunbird and no sexual dimorphism.

It is usually placed in its monotypic genus. It is indeed distant to other sunbirds but it might actually be somehow related to some Cinnyris such Superb, Splendid and Johanna’s Sunbirds. It is therefore another Nectariniidae with a potential change in its classification.

Giant Sunbird Dreptes thomensis – OR, VULN, E (Sao Tome)

Genus Cinnyris – 18 species

When sunbirds formerly in Nectarinia were reclassified, this genus received most of small colourful species, often with strong sexual dimorphism and a fairly long bill. It seems, however, that is not a correct solution. First set of species here below (up to the blank row), all from Africa, might actually be Chalcomitra. Tanzanian Rufous-winged Sunbird is possibly a Cyanomitra. Asian Species might received two new genera : Cyrtostomus, for Olive-backed, Flame-breasted and Apricot-breasted Sunbirds and Arachnechthra for Purple and Loten’s Sunbirds. Last 17 species of the list, all Africans, are probably related to Orange-breasted Sunbird and thus should be placed in Anthobaphes.


Olive-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris chloropygius – NA
Tiny Sunbird Cinnyris minulla – NA
Beautiful Sunbird Chalcomitra pulchella – NA
Marico Sunbird Chalcomitra mariquensis – NA
* Copper Sunbird Cinnyris cupreus
Shelley’s Sunbird Cinnyris shelleyi – NA
Hofmann’s Sunbird Cinnyris hofmanni – SP, E (Tanzanie)
Congo Sunbird Cinnyis congensis – Special target
* Red-chested Sunbird Cinnyris erythrocercus
* Black-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris nectarinioides
Purple-banded Sunbird Cinnyris bifasciata – NA
Tsavo Sunbird Cinnyris tsavoensis – Special target
Violet-breasted Sunbird Cinnyris chalcomelas – Special target
Pemba Sunbird Cinnyris pembae – OR, E (Pemba, Tanzanie)
Malagasy Green Sunbird Chalcomitra notata – NA

Orange-tufted Sunbird Cinnyris bouvieri – Special target
Palestine Sunbird Cinnyris osea – NA
Shining Sunbird Cinnyris habessinicus – NA
Splendid Sunbird Cinnyris coccinigastrus – NA
Johanna’s Sunbird Cinnyris johannae – NA
Superb Sunbird Cinnyris superbus – NA
Oustalet’s Sunbird Cinnyris oustaleti – Special target
White-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris talatala – NA
* Variable Sunbird Cinnyris venustus
Dusky Sunbird Cinnyris fuscus – NA
Ursula’s Sunbird Cinnyris ursulae – NA
Souimanga Sunbird Cinnyris sovimanga – NA
Seychelles Sunbird Cinnyris dussumieri – NA, E (Seychelles)
Humblot’s Sunbird Cinnyris humbloti – OR, E (Comores)
Anjouan Sunbird Cinnyris comorensis – OR, E (Anjouan, Comores)
Mayotte Sunbird Cinnyris coquerellii – OR, E (Mayotte, France)
Rufous-winged Sunbird Cyanomitra rufipennis – SP, E (Tanzania)
Apricot-breasted Sunbird Cinnyris buettikoferi – OR, E (Sangihe, Indonesia)
* Flame-breasted Sunbird Cinnyris solaris
* Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis
* Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus
* Loten’s Sunbird Cinnyris lotenius
Western Miombo Sunbird Cinnyris gertrudis – NA
Eastern Miombo Sunbird Cinnyris manoensis – NA
Southern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris chalybeus – NA
Neergaard’s Sunbird Cinnyris neergaardi – SP
Ruwenzori Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris stuhlmanni – OR
Prigogine’s Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris prigoginei – SP, E (D. R. Congo)
Ludwig’s Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris ludovicensis – SP, E (Angola)
Whyte’s Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris whytei – SP
* Northern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris reichenowi
Greater Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris afer – NA
Regal Sunbird Cinnyris regius – OR
Rockefeller’s Sunbird Cinnyris rockefelleri – SP, E (D. R. Congo)
Eastern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris mediocris – NA
* Usambara Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris usambaricus
Forest Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris fuelleborni – NA
Moreau’s Sunbird Cinnyris moreaui – SP, E (Tanzanie)
Loveridge’s Sunbird Cinnyris loveridgei – SP, E (Tanzanie)

Genus Anthobaphes – 1 species

The position of this nice South-African (endemic) sunbird, distinct from all others, is still unsettled. It was placed in Nectarinia and Cinnyris. According to some studies, it might actually be basal of about fifteen african Cinnyris (“double-collared” species) that would, therefore, be transferred here in the genus Anthobaphes. See more details in Cinnyris chapter, above. Classification will thus certainly evolve in the future.

Orange-breasted Sunbird Anthobaphes violacea – OR, E (South Africa)

Genus Leptocoma – 6 species

This is a small genus of brightly coloured sunbirds of Southern Asia with only one species (Black Sunbird) reaching Oceania (Papua-New-Guinea).

It is probably related to Aethopyga, sharing colourful male plumage and strong sexual dimorphism, and to Anthreptes, at least Asian species, that also have short bill and no tail streamers.

Purple-rumped Sunbird Leptocoma zeylonica – NA
Crimson-backed Sunbird Leptocoma minima – NA, E (Inde)
Purple-throated Sunbird Leptocoma sperata – NA
Van Hasselt’s Sunbird Leptocoma brasiliana – NA
Black Sunbird Leptocoma aspasia – NA
Copper-throated Sunbird Leptocoma calcostetha – NA

Genus Aethopyga – 23 species

This genus groups a nice list of beautiful, elegant and often long-tailed sunbirds, all from Indo-himalayan (“oriental”) zone. Some live in Himalaya and elsewhere on mainland Asia, but more than half are found in the Philippines (most being endemic) and a few are restricted to Indonesia. Its affinities are uncertain ; in most references, they are placed close to Cinnyris, but recent studies show relationships with other Asian genera such Leptocoma, Chalcoparia or Anthreptes (that might become a strictly Asian genus).


Elegant Sunbird Aethopyga duyvenbodei – OR, ENDANG, E (Sangihe, Indonesia)
Fire-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga ignicauda – NA
* Black-throated Sunbird Aethopyga saturata – NA
Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird Aethopyga gouldiae – NA
Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis – NA
Vigors’s Sunbird Aethopyga vigorsii – OR, E (India)
Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja – NA
Magnificent Sunbird Aethopyga magnifica – ON, E (Philippines)
Lovely Sunbird Aethopyga shelleyi – OR, E (Philippines)
Temminck’s Sunbird Aethopyga temminckii – NA
Javan Sunbird Aethopyga mystacalis – SPECIAL T, E (Java)
Handsome Sunbird Aethopyga bella – NA, E (Philippines)
White-flanked Sunbird Aethopyga eximia – SPECIAL T, E (Java)
Fork-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga christinae – NA
Flaming Sunbird Aethopyga flagrans – OR, E (Philippines)
Maroon-naped Sunbird Aethopyga guimarasensis – OR, E (Philippines)
Bohol Sunbird Aethopyga decorosa – SPECIAL T, E (Bohol)
* Luzon Sunbird Aethopyga jefferyiE (Philippines)
Metallic-winged Sunbird Aethopyga pulcherrima – OR, E (Philippines)
Lina’s Sunbird Aethopyga linaraborae – SPECIAL TE (Mindanao)
* Grey-hooded Sunbird Aethopyga primigenia – ORE (Mindanao)
Apo Sunbird Aethopyga boltoni – SPECIAL T, E (Mindanao)
Tboli Sunbird Aethopyga tibolii – SPECIAL T, E (Mindanao)

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