Family Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)

Least Concern

Red-tufted Sunbird (Nectarinia johnstoni)


French: Souimanga de Johnston German: Lobeliennektarvogel Spanish: Suimanga de Johnston
Other common names: Scarlet-tufted Sunbird

Nectarinia johnstoni


, 1885,

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania


Race nyikensis formerly known as salvadorii, but latter name invalid, as preoccupied. Proposed race idia (described from Mt Kenya) treated as synonym of nominate. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. j. dartmouthi Ogilvie-Grant, 1906 – E DRCongo, SW Uganda and NW Rwanda.
  • N. j. itombwensis Prigogine, 1977 – Itombwe Mts (at 2350–3100 m), in E DRCongo.
  • N. j. johnstoni Shelley, 1885 – highlands of C Kenya and N Tanzania.
  • N. j. nyikensis Delacour, 1944 – highlands in S Tanzania, NE Zambia and N Malawi.
  • Descriptive notes

    Male 27 cm, 14–17 g; female 14 cm. Male nominate race breeding has iridescent green crown, side of head and neck on otherwise black head, metallic green upperparts,... read more


    Song of nominate race begins with weak warble, followed by higher-pitched “... read more


    Mostly in Afro-alpine moorland; common where giant lobelias (Lobelia), giant groundsels (... read more

    Food and feeding

    Nectar, pollen, insects (particularly bibionid flies and chironomids) and spiders (Araneae). Food taken from giant lobelias, red-hot pokers... read more


    Laying recorded in Dec in DRCongo, Nov–Jan in Uganda, Jan, Feb, May, Jul–Oct and Dec in Kenya, Jan in Tanzania, and Jan, Oct... read more


    Descends to lower altitudes seasonally in Kenya and N Tanzania. Migrant in Malawi, where absent... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to very common throughout range; locally abundant.

    Recommended citation

    Cheke, R. & Mann, C. (2019). Red-tufted Sunbird (Nectarinia johnstoni). 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).