Family Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)

Least Concern

Black Sunbird (Leptocoma aspasia)


French: Souimanga satiné German: Seidennektarvogel Spanish: Suimanga negro

Cinnyris aspasia

Lesson and Garnot

, 1828,

near Dorey, New Guinea


Considerable geographical variation chiefly in gloss colour of males. Race grayi distinctive, with maroon vs black mantle to back and breast (3) and seemingly smaller size (in particular vs race porphyrolaema, on rest of Sulawesi), although porphyrolaema shares the purple vs blue throat; study of voices needed. Races sangirensis and talautensis also distinctive for having coppery throat, while chlorolaema has green throat. Races corinna, vicina and salvadorii not well marked; perhaps synonymous with nominate#R. Proposed race tonkeana (from E Sulawesi) included in porphyrolaema; morotensis (Morotai, off N Halmahera) in auriceps; olympia (Misool, in West Papuan Is) in cochrani; bergmanni (Adi I, off S Bomberai Peninsula, in W New Guinea) in nominate; and chlorocephala (Wokam, in Aru Is) in aspasioides. Species name previously listed as sericea, but this name is preoccupied#R#R. Race chlorolaema previously listed under junior synonym theresia, as former erroneously thought to be preoccupied. Proposed name jobiensis (Yapen I, in Geelvink Bay) is older than salvadorii, but appears to have been based on specimens of nominate (then known as “sericeus”), and may in any case have to be considered a nomen oblitum; material for salvadorii may have come not from Yapen but from nearby Mios Num; further study required. Twenty-three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. a. grayi (Wallace, 1865) – N Sulawesi, including small islands of Manadotua, Bangka and Lembeh.
  • L. a. porphyrolaema (Wallace, 1865) – Sulawesi (except N), including Togian Is, Muna, Butung and Labuan Blanda.
  • L. a. sangirensis (A. B. Meyer, 1874) – islands of Sangihe, Siau and Ruang (N of Sulawesi).
  • L. a. talautensis (A. B. Meyer & Wiglesworth, 1894) – Talaud Is (NE of Sulawesi).
  • L. a. auriceps (G. R. Gray, 1861) – Morotai, Halmahera, Ternate, Tidore, Mare, Makian, Kasiruta, Bacan, Bisa, Obi, Damar, Muor and Gebe; also Banggai and Sula Archipelagos (off E Sulawesi).
  • L. a. auricapilla (Mees, 1965) – Kayoa I (off W Halmahera).
  • L. a. cochrani (Stresemann & Paludan, 1932) – West Papuan Is (Waigeo, Misool).
  • L. a. mariae (Ripley, 1959) – Kofiau I (N of Misool).
  • L. a. proserpina (Wallace, 1863) – Buru I.
  • L. a. aspasioides (G. R. Gray, 1861) – Seram, Ambon, Nusa Laut, Watubela Is and Aru Is.
  • L. a. chlorolaema (Salvadori, 1874) – Kai Is.
  • L. a. aspasia (Lesson & Garnot, 1828) – New Guinea (including islands of Manam, Karkar, Adi, Gag), except SE.
  • L. a. maforensis (A. B. Meyer, 1874) – Numfor I (in Geelvink Bay), in NW New Guinea.
  • L. a. mysorensis (A. B. Meyer, 1874) – Biak I (in Geelvink Bay) and Schouten Is (off NC New Guinea).
  • L. a. nigriscapularis (Salvadori, 1876) – Mios Num and Rani I (in Geelvink Bay).
  • L. a. salvadorii (Shelley, 1877) – Yapen I and Bay Is (in Geelvink Bay).
  • L. a. veronica (Mees, 1965) – Liki I, off NW New Guinea.
  • L. a. cornelia (Salvadori, 1878) – Tarawai I, off CN New Guinea.
  • L. a. corinna (Salvadori, 1878) – N Bismarck Archipelago (except Feni Is).
  • L. a. eichhorni (Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1926) – Feni I, E of New Ireland.
  • L. a. caeruleogula (Mees, 1965) – Umboi I and New Britain.
  • L. a. vicina (Mayr, 1936) – SE New Guinea.
  • L. a. christianae (Tristram, 1889) – Trobriand Is, D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago, Marshall Bennett Group, Woodlark I and Louisiade Archipelago (Tagula and Misima), off SE New Guinea.
  • Descriptive notes

    11–11·5 cm; mean 8 g. Male nominate race is chiefly black, with head glossy bluish-green, greenish-blue gloss on rump, uppertail-coverts and tail, and median and lesser... read more


    Song a rapid, sweet, tinkling cadence 1·5–4 seconds in duration. Calls include single, or... read more


    Various forest types, avoiding interior, including mangroves, at forest edge, in woodland,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Various arthropods, fruit and nectar. Forages singly, in pairs and in small family groups, occasionally in larger flocks; sometimes joins... read more


    Laying recorded in Aug and Sept in Sulawesi, Mar and May–Jan on islands of Papua New Guinea, and May on New Ireland; occupied nests... read more


    None recorded.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common throughout large range. For example, noted as being common on Togian Is, in C Sulawesi.

    Recommended citation

    Cheke, R. & Mann, C. (2019). Black Sunbird (Leptocoma aspasia). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 September 2019).