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Chalcomitra senegalensis (Scarlet-chested sunbird) 

[= Nectarinia senegalensis

Rooiborssuikerbekkie [Afrikaans]; Kalyambya (generic term for sunbird) [Kwangali]; Dzonya, Tsodzo (both are generic names for sunbird) [Shona]; Nwapyopyamhanya (generic term for sunbird) [Tsonga]; Senwabolôpe, Talętalę (generic terms for sunbirds) [Tswana]; Roodborst-honingzuiger [Dutch]; Souimanga ŕ poitrine rouge [French]; Rotbrust-glanzköpfchen, Rotbrust-nektarvogel [German]; Beija-flor-de-peito-escarlate [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 senegalensis (Scarlet-chested sunbird)  Chalcomitra senegalensis (Scarlet-chested sunbird) 
Scarlet-chested sunbird male. [photo Callie de Wet ©] Scarlet-chested sunbird female. [photo Callie de Wet ©]
Chalcomitra senegalensis (Scarlet-chested sunbird) 
Scarlet-chested sunbird male, Windhoek, Namibia. [photo Peet van Schalkwyk ©, see also scienceanimations.com]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Eritrea, absent from the lowland forest of central DRC, south to southern Africa. Here it is common in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, eastern South Africa and Swaziland, but scarce further west in northern Botswana and Namibia. It generally prefers mixed open savanna woodland, especially fragmented miombo (Brachystegia) woodland, thornveld and coastal scrub. It has adapted well to the changes of habitat caused by humans, as it is common in parks and well-wooded gardens.

Distribution of Scarlet-chested 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 Klaas's cuckoo.


It eats nectar and arthropods, hawking insects aerially or plucking prey from the ground. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Nectar
    • Erythrina (coral-trees)
    • Leonotis (wild daggas)
    • Loranthaceae (mistletoes)
    • Schotia
    • Kniphofia (torch lilies)
    • Aloe
    • Crotalaria
    • Callistemon viminalis (Australian bottlebrush)
    • Tecoma capensis (Cape-honeysuckle)
    • Acrocarpus
    • Dalbergia nitidula (Purplewood flat-bean)
    • Cordyla africana (Wild-mango)
  • Arthropods


  • The nest (see image below) is built solely by the female in about 3-6 days, consisting of a thick-walled, pear-shaped oval structure built of dry grass, weed stems, dead leaves and bark bound together with spider web, with a side entrance covered by a small hood of dried grass inflorescences. The exterior is often decorated with lichen and dead leaves, while the interior is usually lined with hair, plant down and feathers. It is typically securely attached to a branch of a leafy tree, often near an active wasps nest, water body and/or a building.
Chalcomitra senegalensis (Scarlet-chested sunbird) Chalcomitra senegalensis (Scarlet-chested sunbird) 

Scarlet-chested sunbird nest, Phabeni Gate area, Kruger Park, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

Scarlet-chested sunbird female in nest, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

  • Egg-laying season is year round, peaking from October-January.
  • It lays 1-3, usually 2 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 13-15 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both adults, leaving the nest after about 15-20 days, after which they remain dependent on their parents for 8 weeks longer. 


Not threatened, in fact it has actually benefited from the fragmentation of miombo (Brachystegia) woodland in Zimbabwe, unlike many other species such as the Western violet-backed sunbird.


  • 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.