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Cinnyris fuscus (Dusky sunbird) 

[= Nectarinia fusca

Namakwasuikerbekkie [Afrikaans]; Roethoningzuiger [Dutch]; Souimanga fuligineux [French]; Rußnektarvogel [German]; Beija-flor-sombrio [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

Cinnyris fuscus (Dusky sunbird)  Cinnyris fuscus (Dusky sunbird) 

Dusky sunbird, Uis, Namibia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Dusky sunbird, Steinkopf, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Cinnyris fuscus (Dusky sunbird)  Cinnyris fuscus (Dusky sunbird) 
Dusky sunbird, Leeu Gamka, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Dusky sunbird. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from central Angola to Namibia and the western half of South Africa, marginally extending into south-western Botswana. It generally prefers drainage line woodland in succulent and Nama Karoo, semi-arid coastal plains with sand dunes, scrub along rivers and streams and rocky inselbergs with adequate cover, sometimes moving into gardens.

Distribution of Dusky 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 mainly eats nectar supplemented with arthropods, hawking insects aerially and gleaning prey from foliage and spider webs. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Nectar
    • Aloe
      • A. aspersifolia (Kraal aloe)
      • A. dichotoma (Quiver-tree)
      • A. littoralis (Mopane aloe)
      • A. marlothii (Mountain aloe)
      • A. grandidentata (Bontaalwyn)
      • A. gariepensis
      • A. hereroensis (Sandaalwyn)
      • A. zebrina (Zebra aloe)
    • Cadaba aphylla (Leafless wormbush)
    • Crassula
    • Crocosmia (falling stars)
    • Drosanthemum (mesembryanthemums)
    • Hibiscus
    • Leonotis (wild dagga)
    • Lycium (honey-thorns)
    • Psilocaulon (asbos)
    • Loranthaceae (mistletoes)
    • alien plants
      • Lantana camara (Cherry-pie)
      • Nicotiana glauca (Wild tobacco)
      • Canna
  • Insects and other invertebrates


  • The nest is built solely by the female in about a week, consisting of an oval-shaped structure with a side top entrance made of dry grass, plant fibres, dry leaves and bark, bound together with spider web. It sometimes decorates it with wool and paper, lining the interior with soft seed fibres and animal hair. It typically attaches the back of the nest using spider web to branches of a shrub or tree, or between the thorns of a prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia).
  • Opportunistic breeder, as it lays its eggs after rainfall, usually in the period from June-March.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 12-13 days.
  • The chicks are brooded solely by the female but fed by both adults, leaving the nest after about 13-15 days. As juveniles they continue to roost in the nest for about 2 weeks longer, becoming fully independent soon afterwards.


Not threatened.


  • 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.