home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Cyanomitra olivacea (Olive sunbird) 

[= Nectarinia olivacea

Olyfsuikerbekkie [Afrikaans]; Olijfgroene honingzuiger [Dutch]; Souimanga olivâtre [French]; Olivnektarvogel [German]; Beija-flor-oliváceo [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

Cyanomitra olivacea (Olive sunbird)  Cyanomitra olivacea (Olive sunbird)

Olive sunbird. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

Olive sunbird. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in West Africa and across the DRC, extending south through Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi to southern Africa. Here it is common in central and southern Mozambique and Swaziland, extending down the coast to KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. It generally prefers coastal evergreen forests and thickets, but it also occupies dense woodland, banana and Eucalyptus plantations and well-wooded gardens.

Distribution of Olive 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.  


It mainly feeds on nectar and arthropods, gleaning prey from foliage and spider webs and hawking insects aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • nectar
      • Strelitzia nicolai (Coastal strelitzia)
      • Burchellia bubalina (Wild-pomegranate)
      • Erythrina (coral-trees)
      • Scadoxus (lilies)
      • Halleria lucida (Tree-fuchsia)
      • Leonotis leonurus (Wild dagga)
      • Hibiscus tiliaceus (Lagoon hibiscus)
      • Jacaranda mimosifolia (Jacaranda)
      • Kigelia africana (Sausage-tree)
      • Schotia brachypetala (Weeping boer-bean)
      • Gardenia (gardenias)
      • Fuchsia
      • Passiflora (granadina)
      • Tecoma (honeysuckles)
      • Macaranga (wild poplars)
      • Loranthaceae (mistletoes)
    • fruit
      • Trema orientalis (Pigeonwood)
      • juice sucked out of Ficus lutea (Giant-leaved fig)
  • Arthropods


  • The nest is built solely by the female, consisting of an elongate, pear-shaped structure made of a variety of materials, such as fine grass, twiglets, moss, lichen, leaves and Marasmius fungus bound together with spider web. The entrance hole is placed on the side, covered by a small roof, while the interior is typically lined with feathers, seed down and other fine fibres. It is typically attached at the roof to a branch or creeper beneath a dense canopy, or alternatively it can be put amongst roots and cavernous hollows on the ground in the forest or beside a stream, or even within a building or in a hanging basket.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-March, peaking from September-January.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 13-16 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 13-16 days.


Not threatened globally but Threatened in southern Mozambique, largely due to the destruction of coastal forest.


  • 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.