Family Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)

Least Concern

Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa)


French: Souimanga malachite German: Malachitnektarvogel Spanish: Suimanga malaquita

Certhia famosa


, 1766,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Proposed races subfamosa (described from Entoto, in C Ethiopia), centralis (Lusasa, in S Uganda) and aeneigularis (Sotik, in SW Kenya) all considered indistinguishable from cupreonitens; major (from Weenen, in KwaZulu-Natal) synonymized with nominate. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. f. cupreonitens Shelley, 1876 – Ethiopia, South Sudan (Imatong Mts), E DRCongo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, extreme NE Zambia and N Malawi.
  • N. f. famosa (Linnaeus, 1766) – E Zimbabwe and adjacent Mozambique, and extreme S Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho and W Swaziland.
  • Descriptive notes

    Male 24–27 cm, 12–22·5 g; female 13–15 cm, 9·1–17·5 g. Male nominate race breeding has most of body plumage bright metallic... read more


    Song involves whistling “tseuu, tseuu” notes followed by “pesui pesui pesui... read more


    Open habitats, scrubby moorland, forest edge, Protea moorland and bamboo at high... read more

    Food and feeding

    Nectar and insects; also two small lizards recorded as prey. Food taken from plants such as giant lobelias (Lobelia), aloes (... read more


    Laying recorded in Jul–Sept in Ethiopia, Aug and Dec in Kenya, Mar, May and Jul–Aug in Tanzania, Jun in Zambia, Jan–Feb,... read more


    Nomadic in search of flowers; recoveries up to 161 km from ringing site in South Africa. Moves... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common in South Africa; locally common in highlands of Kenya, Tanzania and DRCongo (1200–2800 m); uncommon in Ethiopia and Sudan.

    Recommended citation

    Cheke, R. & Mann, C. (2019). Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa). 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 20 August 2019).