Amethyst sunbird

Amethyst sunbird

Amethyst sunbird, Black sunbird

Chalcomitra amethystina

The amethyst sunbird, also called the black sunbird (Chalcomitra amethystina ), is a species of passerine bird in the family Nectariniidae. 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.



Amethyst sunbirds 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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It occurs in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Habits and Lifestyle

Though mostly found singly or in pairs, larger numbers may concentrate at favourite flowering trees, where they act aggressively towards other sunbird species. The complex song is a loud, sustained twittering. Food includes emergent termites, spiders and nectar. In courtship a male will hop about a branch near a female, drop 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.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Mating Habits

Breeding pairs of amethyst sunbird 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. Nests are built from fine grass stems, which are bound together with cobwebs. 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.


Population number

On the Mashonaland plateau, race kirkii has declined in favour of scarlet-chested sunbird, after fragmentation of its native miombo woodlands. In South Africa, the range of the nominate race has increased along with the spread of wooded gardens.


1. Amethyst sunbird Wikipedia article -
2. Amethyst sunbird on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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