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Cinnyris talatala (White-bellied sunbird) 

[= Nectarinia talatala

Witpenssuikerbekkie [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]; Witbuik-honingzuiger [Dutch]; Souimanga ŕ ventre blanchâtre [French]; Weißbauch-nektarvogel [German]; Beija-flor-de-barriga-branca [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 talatala (White-bellied sunbird) Cinnyris talatala (White-bellied sunbird)

White-bellied sunbird male. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

White-bellied sunbird female, Sable Hills Estate, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Angola to southern Tanzania south to southern Africa, where it is common to locally abundant across northern Namibia, northern and south-eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers semi-arid savanna woodland, such as Acacia, bushwillow (Combretum) and riparian thickets, Zambezi teak (Baikiaea plurijuga) and mixed miombo (Brachystegia) woodland.

Distribution of White-bellied 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

It has been recorded as prey of the following mammals:

  • Felis cattus (Domestic cat)
  • Galerella sanguinea (Slender mongoose)

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Klaas's cuckoo.


It mainly eats nectar supplemented with arthropods, often joining mixed-species foraging flocks in the day, along with other sunbirds at large sources of nectar. In the late afternoon it regularly hawks insects aerially and gleans invertebrates from foliage. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Nectar
    • Leonotis (wild dagga)
    • Tecoma capensis (Cape honeysuckle)
    • Combretum mossambicense (Knobbly climbing bushwillow)
    • Combretum paniculatum (Forest burning-bush combretum)
    • Aloe
      • A. arborescens (Krantz aloe)
      • A. cameronii (Ruwari aloe)
      • A. chabaudii (Chabaudi's aloe)
    • Dalbergia nitidula (Purplewood flat-bean)
    • Hibiscus
    • Erythrina (coral-trees)
    • Cordyla africana (Wild mango)
    • Schotia (boer-beans)
    • Strelitzia
    • Salvia
    • Bauhinia
    • Protea
    • Kigelia africana (Sausage-tree)
    • Watsonia
    • Kniphofia (torch lilies)
    • Agapanthus
    • Grewia (raisins)
    • Loranthaceae (mistletoes)
    • alien plants
      • Brunsfelia
      • Canna
      • Callistemon viminalis (Weeping bottlebrush)
      • Cestrum (inkberries)
      • Eucalyptus
      • Jacaranda mimosifolia (Jacaranda)
      • Ipomaea lobata (morning glory)
      • Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettias)
      • Tecoma (South American species)
      • Tithonia rotundifolia (Red sunflower)
  • Arthropods


  • The nest (see image below) is built solely by the female in about 5-8 days, consisting of an untidy oval-shaped structure made of dry material such as grass and leaves, bound together with spider web. The outside is decorated with bits of leaves and bark, while the interior is thickly lined with plant down, sometimes along with feathers and wool. It is typically attached to the branches or thorns of a plant, such as a Queen-of-the-night cactus (Cereus jamacaru), prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia) or a tree, sometimes alongside active paper wasp (Belanogaster) nests.
Cinnyris talatala (White-bellied sunbird)  

White-bellied sunbird female at its nest with chicks, Modimolle, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from June-March, peaking from September-December.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for 13-14 days.
  • The chicks are brooded solely by the female but fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 14-15 days, after which they continue to roost at the nest for about 4-14 more days.


Not threatened, in fact it seems to have benefited from the fragmentation and disturbance of miombo (Bracystegia) woodland in Zimbabwe.


  • 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.