Family Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)

Least Concern

Shelley's Sunbird (Cinnyris shelleyi)


French: Souimanga de Shelley German: Scharlachbrust-Nektarvogel Spanish: Suimanga de Shelley

Cinnyris shelleyi


, 1899,

Zambezi River, 60 miles [c. 95 km] below junction of Kafue–Zambezi Rivers, on Zambia–Zimbabwe border


Split of race hofmanni plausible (claimed as incontrovertible#R, although sample size small and some characters virtually undetectable); differs in its smaller size and notably shorter bill (at least 2) and, in male, narrower red breastband (although AMNH 688967, from Erati, in Mozambique, possesses a narrower breastband than AMNH 348834, the only adult male hofmanni in the collection; ns); study of vocalizations desirable. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. s. hofmanni Reichenow, 1915 – Hofmann's Sunbird – E Tanzania.
  • C. s. shelleyi Alexander, 1899 – Shelley's Sunbird – SW Tanzania, extreme SE DRCongo, Zambia, NE Namibia (Caprivi Strip), extreme NW Zimbabwe, Malawi and N Mozambique.
  • Descriptive notes

    9–13 cm; 8 g. Male nominate race breeding has metallic emerald head, throat and neck with bright yellowish-green, gold and copper reflections, mantle, back and median... read more


    Fast warbling song, including “chibbee-cheeu-cheeu” phrase. Calls are a “chip... read more


    Usually in brachystegia (Brachystegia) woodland, occasionally in Baikiaea or... read more

    Food and feeding

    Nectar, insects, and spiders (Araneae). Forages high in trees. Visits flowers of Holmskioldia, Lagerstroemia, Tecoma... read more


    Laying recorded in Feb and Apr in Tanzania, Aug–Nov in Zambia, Nov in Zimbabwe, and Aug and Oct in Malawi; double-brooded. Nest... read more


    No data.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common to uncommon in Tanzania; uncommon and sparingly distributed in Malawi and Zambia. In Malawi, occurs in Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cheke, R. & Mann, C. (2019). Shelley's Sunbird (Cinnyris shelleyi). 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 12 November 2019).