Family Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)

Least Concern

Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis)


French: Souimanga à dos vert German: Grünrücken-Nektarvogel Spanish: Suimanga dorsioliva

Certhia jugularis


, 1766,

Philippine Islands


Previously treated as conspecific with C. idenburgi, which see. Subspecies divided into six groups, based largely on male plumages as presented in recent regional field guide#R: “ornatus group” (in much of N & W of range); “jugularis group” (confined to Philippines); “frenatus group”, male yellow-bellied and olive-backed; single-taxon “infrenatus group”, with plain face, yellow belly, brown back; single-taxon “teysmanni group”, with black belly and brown back; and “clementiae group”, black-bellied and olive-backed. Evidence is accumulating that multiple species are represented within present arrangement; comprehensive review involving molecular, acoustic and morphological evidence is needed. Birds on Andaman Is currently placed in race andamanicus, but some variation evident, indicating that perhaps more than one race is involved; birds on Narcondam possibly an undescribed race and a further new race (on S Nicobars) awaits description#R. Conversely, several races poorly differentiated, e.g. blanfordi could perhaps be included in klossi or ornatus, and robustirostris in frenatus. Race name pictus, described from NW Basilan (in W Philippines), was based on a composite specimen, major parts deriving from nominate race. Many additional races have been described, all considered insufficiently distinct to warrant retention: tamdaoensis (from NE Vietnam) treated as synonym of rhizophorae, and annamensis (Nha Trang, in C Vietnam) included in flammaxillaris; heliobletus (Tanjong Dungun, in Peninsular Malaysia), microleucus (Pulo Taya, off SE Sumatra), heliozetetus (Tanjung Rengsam, on Bangka I, off SE Sumatra), zapegus (Pulo Subi, in Natuna Is), heliomanis (Salintukan, in E Borneo) and pectoralis (Java) all synonymized with ornatus; in Philippines, dinagatensis (from Dinagat) and mindanensis (Zamboanga, in W Mindanao) both included in nominate; meyeri (N Sulawesi), dissentiens#R (Indrulaman, in S Sulawesi) and saleyerensis (Selayar I, off SW Sulawesi) all merged with plateni, although recent research suggests that latter, at least, may in fact be valid#R; zenobius (Ambon, in S Moluccas) considered inseparable from clementiae; and hachisuka (Obi, S of Halmahera), valia (Goodenough I, off SE New Guinea) and, in Australia, macgillivrayi (Cape York, in N Queensland), olivei (Cairns, in NE Queensland) and australis (Port Molle = Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, in E Queensland) all merged with frenatus. Twenty-one subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. j. flammaxillaris (Blyth, 1845) – Myanmar, Thailand, Indochina (except N) and N Peninsular Malaysia (S to Penang and Kuantan); probably W to SE Bangladesh.
  • C. j. rhizophorae (Swinhoe, 1869) – S China (S Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Hainan) and N Vietnam.
  • C. j. andamanicus (A. O. Hume, 1873) – Andaman Is.
  • C. j. proselius Oberholser, 1923 – N Nicobar Is (Car Nicobar).
  • C. j. blanfordi (E. C. S. Baker, 1921) – Katchal and Kondol (Nicobars).
  • C. j. klossi (Richmond, 1902) – Nicobar Is (except Car Nicobar, Katchal and Kondol).
  • C. j. ornatus Lesson, 1827 – Ornate Sunbird – C & S Malay Peninsula (S of Penang and Kuantan), Sumatra and most satellites, Borneo, Java, Bali and Lesser Sundas (except Sumba, Timor and some small islands), probably also Tanimbar Is.
  • C. j. polyclystus Oberholser, 1912 – Enggano I, off W Sumatra.
  • C. j. obscurior Ogilvie-Grant, 1894 – N Philippines (N Luzon).
  • C. j. jugularis (Linnaeus, 1766) – Garden Sunbird – Philippine Is (except N Luzon, SW and Sulu Is).
  • C. j. aurora (Tweeddale, 1878) – SW Philippines (Calauit, Busuanga, Culion, Dumaran, Palawan, Ursula, Balabac, Lumbucan), including islands in N Sulu Sea (Agutaya, Cuyo, Cagayancillo).
  • C. j. woodi (Mearns, 1909) – Sulu Archipelago (Balukbaluk, Jolo, Dammai, Simaluc, Siasi, Tawitawi, Sanga-Sanga, Bongao, Papahag, Simunul, Manuk Manka, Sitanki, Omapoy, Sibutu, Tumindao, Saluag, Tres Islas), in S Philippines.
  • C. j. plateni (A. W. H. Blasius, 1885) – Talaud Is, Sangihe I, Siau I, and Sulawesi (including Manadotua, Manterawu, Bangka, Togian Is, Selayar and Butung#R).
  • C. j. robustirostris (Mees, 1964) – Banggai Archipelago and Sula Is (off E Sulawesi).
  • C. j. frenatus (S. Müller, 1843) – Sahul Sunbird – N Moluccas (Morotai, Halmahera, Ternate, Mare, Moti, Kayoa, Bacan, Obi and Gomumu, possibly also Bisa) E to New Guinea (except N coastal region), Aru Is, D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago and NE Australia (N & E Queensland).
  • C. j. flavigastra (Gould, 1843) – Bismarck Archipelago and Solomon Is.
  • C. j. infrenatus E. J. O. Hartert, 1903 – Tukangbesi Sunbird – Hoga I and Tukangbesi Is, off SE Sulawesi.
  • C. j. teysmanni Büttikofer, 1893 – Flores Sea Sunbird – islands in Flores Sea (Tanahjampea, Kalao, Bonerate, Kalaotoa and Madu).
  • C. j. buruensis E. J. O. Hartert, 1910 – Buru, in S Moluccas.
  • C. j. clementiae Lesson, 1827 – Clementia's Sunbird – Boano, Seram, Ambon, Saparua, Nusa Laut and Watubela Is.
  • C. j. keiensis Stresemann, 1913 – Kai Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    10–11·4 cm; male 6·7–11·9 g, female 6–10 g. Male nominate race is olive above, with black remiges edged green, black tail tipped and... read more


    Much geographical variation. Songs include discordant jumble of twittering notes; musical “... read more


    Various forest types, including mangroves, at forest edge, in open country, scrub, coastal... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, usually small ones, and spiders (Araneae), also nectar and small fruits; spiders, insects and small butterflies reported among... read more


    Breeds in all months except Oct and Dec (mostly Jan–Aug) on Borneo and Java, and in all months (chiefly Oct–Mar, when less rain... read more


    Resident, with short local movements. Seasonal movements in N Queensland.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally common throughout its large global range. Recent sight records (presumably of race flammaxillaris) from SE... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cheke, R., Mann, C., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis). 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).