home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Anthreptes longuemarei (Western Violet-backed sunbird) 

Blousuikerbekkie [Afrikaans]; Dzonya, Tsodzo (both are generic names for sunbird) [Shona]; Violetrug-honingzuiger [Dutch]; Souimanga violet [French]; Violettmantel-nektarvogel [German]; Beija-flor-violeta [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

Anthreptes longuemarei (Western Violet-backed sunbird)  
Western violet-backed sunbird male, Mutinundo, Zambia. [photos Johann Grobbelaar ]

Distribution and habitat

It has two separate populations above and below the equator; one extending in a band from Senegal to Sudan and the other occurring across southern DRC, Angola, southern Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and southern Africa. Here it is uncommon and localised in north-eastern Zimbabwe and in patches in central and northern-western Mozambique. It generally prefers the canopy of mature miombo (Brachystegia) woodland and large stands of mahahobohobo (Uapaca), occasionally moving into suburban and farm gardens in winter.

Distribution of Western violet-backed 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).


It mainly eats arthropods supplemented with nectar, doing most of its foraging in the canopy, gleaning prey from leaves and branches but occasionally hawking insects aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Arthropods
  • Nectar
    • Aloe
    • Kniphofia (torch lilies)
    • Erythrina abyssinica (Red-hot-poker coral-tree)
    • Faurea rochetiana (Broad-leaved beechwood)
    • Loranthaceae (mistletoes)
    • Leonotis leonurus (Wild dagga)
    • Bauhinia variegata (Butterfly tree)
    • Tecoma capensis (Cape-honeysuckle)
    • alien plants
      • Callistemon viminalis (Weeping bottlebrush)
      • Spathodea campanulata (African flame tree)


  • The nest (see image below) is built solely by the female, consisting of an oval-shaped structure with a side entrance, which often faces into the nest tree. It is usually made from grass and other plant fibres bound with spider web and decorated with dead leaves, with an interior lining of fine grass stems and plant down. Typically it is placed amongst dense seed pod clusters in a leafless tree, although it has been recorded to use creepers on the sides of buildings or even sociable spider nests.
Anthreptes longuemarei (Western Violet-backed sunbird)  

Western violet-backed sunbird female at its nest, Mutinundo, Zambia. [photos Johann Grobbelaar ]

  • Egg-laying season is from about August-December, peaking from August-October.
  • It lays 1-3 dark buff eggs, which are covered in strange scribbles and lines, which resemble signatures.
  • Very little known is known about the chicks, other than that they are fed by both parents.


Not threatened globally, but its population in Zimbabwe has severely decreased due to the ongoing destruction of mature miombo (Brachystegia) woodland. It unfortunately dislikes young and immature woodland types, so this deforestation is definitely cause for concern.


  • 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.