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Anthobaphes violacea (Orange-breasted sunbird) 

[= Nectarinia violacea

Oranjeborssuikerbekkie [Afrikaans]; Oranjeborst-honingzuiger [Dutch]; Souimanga orangé [French]; Goldbrust-nektarvogel [German]; Beija-flor-de-peito-laranja [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Nectariniidae

Anthobaphes violacea (Orange-breasted sunbird) 

Orange-breasted sunbird male on Protea head, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo David Robertson ©]

Orange-breasted sunbird female, Rooiels, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Anthobaphes violacea (Orange-breasted sunbird)  Anthobaphes violacea (Orange-breasted sunbird) 
Orange-breasted sunbird male on Protea head, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Orange-breasted sunbird female on Protea head, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to the fynbos biome of the Western and Eastern Cape, South Africa, generally preferring dense stands of Protea and Erica. It also occurs in coastal renosterveld and occasionally gardens, provided that there are enough nectar producing plants such as Aloe.

Distribution of Orange-breasted sunbird in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and Parasites

The eggs and young have been recorded as prey of the following animals:


It eats nectar supplemented with small arthropods, gleaning them from leaves and branches, plucking from the ground and occasionally hawking insects aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Nectar
    • Protea
      • P. lepidocarpodendron (Black-bearded protea)
      • P. repens (Sugarbush)
      • P. nitida (Waboom)
      • P. compacta (Bot river sugarbush)
      • P. magnifica (Queen protea)
      • P. neriifolia (Narrow-leaved protea)
    • Erica (66 species recorded in total)
      • E. coccinea (Vlakteheide)
      • E. gilva (Groenheide)
      • E. mammosa (Nine-pin heath)
      • E. perspicua (Prince-of-Wales heath)
      • E. phylicifolia (Rooiheide)
      • E. plunkenetti (Hangertjie)
      • E. sessifolia (Green heath)
      • E. speciosa
    • Leonotis (Wild dagga)
      • L. ocymifolia
      • L. leonurus
    • Mimetes
      • M. fimbriifolius (Fringed pagoda-tree)
      • M. hirtus (Marsh pagoda)
      • M. fibriifolius (Tree pagoda)
    • Liparia spherica (Mountain dahlia)
    • Lobostemon fructicosus (Pyjama bush)
    • Tecoma capensis (Cape-honeysuckle)
    • Lobelia pinifolia (Wild lobelia)
    • Watsonia tabularis (Bugle lily)
    • Agapanthus
    • alien plants
      • Hedera helix (Ivy)
      • Eucalyptus
  • Invertebrates


  • The nest is built by solely by the female in about 15-18 days, consisting of a sturdy oval with a circular side entrance, built of dry twiglets, heather and soft plant material bound together with spider web. The interior is thickly lined with fluff taken from Protea, alien Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) and Kapokbos (Eriocephalus africanus). It is typically placed facing south or south-east, to avoid prevailing wind and rain, in a bush, shrub or tree, especially Protea and Erica.
  • Egg-laying season is almost year-round, peaking from June-September in the Cape Peninsula, Western Cape, earlier in other areas around April-July.
  • It lays 1-2 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 13-16 days.
  • The chicks are brooded in the night until just after they fledge and are fed by both parents, on a diet of mainly arthropods. They usually leave the nest at about 14-22 days old, coming back to the nest to roost for 5-15 days longer, soon afterwards becoming fully independent.


Not threatened, although invasion of woody-stemmed alien plants into fynbos is definitely cause for concern, but it is estimated that there are at least 10 000 Orange-breasted sunbirds living in protected areas.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.