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Chalcomitra amethystina (Amethyst sunbird, Black sunbird) 

[= Nectarinia amethystina

Swartsuikerbekkie [Afrikaans]; Ingcungcu (generic term for sunbird) [Xhosa]; Kalyambya (generic term for sunbird) [Kwangali]; Dzonya, Tsodzo (both are generic names for sunbird) [Shona]; Nwapyopyamhanya (generic term for sunbird) [Tsonga]; Senwabolôpe, Talêtalê (generic terms for sunbirds) [Tswana]; amethist-honingzuiger [Dutch]; Souimanga améthyste [French]; Amethyst-glanzköpfchen [German]; Beija-flor-preto [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

Chalcomitra amethystina (Amethyst sunbird, Black sunbird)  Chalcomitra amethystina (Amethyst sunbird, Black sunbird) 
Amethyst sunbird male. [photo Callie de Wet ©] Amethyst sunbird female feeding on nectar. [photo Callie de Wet ©]
Chalcomitra amethystina (Amethyst sunbird, Black sunbird)  Chalcomitra amethystina (Amethyst sunbird, Black sunbird) 
Amethyst sunbird male, Weza Forest, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Amethyst sunbird immature male, Kyalami, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Mainly occurs in Africa south of the equator, from Kenya and Tanzania through southern DRC and Zambia to southern Africa. Here it is fairly common across Zimbabwe, northern and south-eastern Mozambique and South Africa from Limpopo Province and Gauteng to KwaZulu-Natal, extending down the coast to Cape Agulhas. It is also has scattered populations in northern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip) and northern as well as south-eastern Botswana. It generally favours in coastal evergreen forest and mature valley bushveld, but it may also move into drier, more open woodland. It sometimes goes out of its way to visit a large clump of nectar-bearing plants, such as Aloe.

Distribution of Amethyst 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.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Green-backed honeybird and Klaas's cuckoo.


It eats nectar supplemented with insects, foraging wherever nectar is available. It often hawks flying insects from the trees or bushes, also gleaning them from leaves and branches. Nectar is obtained either from flowers or from garden feeders, which it uses readily (note that in feeding experiments it was found to prefer sucrose rather than sugar). The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Nectar
    • Aloe
    • Strelitzia
    • Salvia
    • Cestrum
    • Bauhinia
    • Eucalyptus
    • Hibiscus
    • Protea
    • Eryrthrina (coral-trees)
    • Knipholia (torch lilies)
    • Schotia (boer-beans)
    • Leonotis (wild dagga)
    • mistletoe (Loranthaceae)
    • Tecoma capensis (Cape honeysuckle)
    • Callistemon viminalis (Australian bottlebrush)
    • Greyia sutherlandii (Natal bottlebrush)
    • Leucospermum (pincushion)
    • Combretum (bushwillows)
    • Crotalaria capensis (Cape rattle pod)
    • Halleria lucida (Tree-fuchsia)
    • Dalbergia nitidula (Glossy flat-bean)
    • Cordyla africana (Wild mango)
    • Faurea speciosa (Broad-leaved beechwood)
    • Baikiaea plurijuga (Zambezi teak)
    • sucrose or sugar taken from garden feeders
  • Flying insects
  • Spiders


  • The nest (see image below) is built solely by the female, consisting of an oval-shaped structure built of lichen, grass, stalks and bark cemented with spider web. The 3.5 - 5.5 cm entrance is placed on the side, and the inside is lined with soft plant down and feathers. It is attached strongly to a drooping branch of a tree, bush or creeper usually 2-6 metres above ground.
Chalcomitra amethystina (Amethyst sunbird, Black sunbird)  Chalcomitra amethystina (Amethyst sunbird, Black sunbird)

Female in nest, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

Amethyst sunbird in its nest, Modimolle area, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is year round, peaking from September-November in Zimbabwe and October-February in South Africa.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for 13-18 days.
  • The chicks are fed mainly by the female, leaving the nest after about 14-18 days, becoming independent after at least 1 week.


Not threatened, in fact its range has increased recently due to the spread of wooded gardens.


  • 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.