Tag Archive: birds of africa

Malachite Sunbird – Nectarinia famosa

Facts about Malachites:

The male Malachite Sunbird – Nectarinia famosa is a metallic green bird with yellow pectoral tufts and has a long tail making his total length approx. 25cm. The female has a brown back with pale yellow underparts and white outer tail feathers. The tail is much shorter than that of the male, making her total length approx. 15cm. The juvenile malachite looks like the female but it has greener upperparts and yellower underparts. This sunbird is territorial and aggressive  especially when nesting.


The Malachite Sunbird is found on hilly fynbos, on proteas and aloes. Malachites prefer a habitat consisting of montane grasslands and scrub, riverine bush, fynbos and gardens. This species can occur at high elevation, 2400 metres in Ethiopia, 3000 metres in Tanzania, and from sea-level up to 2800 metres in South Africa.

Feeding and Diet:

The Malachite Sunbird feeds primarily on nectar and insects. It gets food from several plants such as Lobelia and Aloe, and also Kniphofia (Liliaceae). They will also feed from other plants as well. It will observe insects from an exposed perch and fly up to grab them. The babies will eat mainly insects and other small bugs.  Both genders have long curved thin bills and brush-tipped tubular tongues for nectar feeding. It feeds and forages alone or in pairs, or in loose groups of 30-40 birds.

Male Malachite Sunbird


Picture of a female Malachite Sunbird –  note the lack of colours compared to the male. She usually lays two grey eggs, which she incubates for 13 days. Her nest is oval. It is made with grass, plant fibres, leaves, twigs, rootlets and spider webs.  The interior is lined with soft grass, hair, feathers, down and wool.
The nest is placed within a bush with an entrance facing inwards, between near ground and 20 metres up in tree or bush, often above the water.

Female Malachite Sunbird


Another male, but this time without the breeding plumage.

Malachite Male


Malachite Sunbird

The Malachite Sunbird, Nectarinia famosa is a small nectivorous bird found in the southern part of the Southern African region. The sunbirds are a group of small birds, and are placed within the family Nectariniidae, which is found across Africa, the Middle East and into South-east Asia. The breeding male Malachite Sunbird, which has very long central tail feathers, is 25cm long, and the shorter-tailed female 15 cm. The adult male is metallic green when breeding, with blackish green wings with small yellow pectoral patches. In non-breeding plumage, the males upperparts are brown apart from the green wings and tail, the latter retaining the elongated feathers. The underparts in are yellow, flecked with green. The female has brown upperparts and dull yellow underparts with some indistinct streaking on the breast. Her tail is square-ended. The juvenile resembles the female. This large sunbird is found in hilly fynbos (including protea stands as well as areas with aloes) and cool montane and coastal scrub. It also occurs in parks and gardens. It is resident, but may move downhill in winter. This species, like most sunbirds, feed mainly on nectar, although they will also take insects. This Malachite Sunbirds photo was taken at Schoenmakers Kop outside Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Malachite Sunbird

Spotted Thick Knee

The Spotted Thick-knee is commonly known as the Dikkop in South Africa. It’s scientific name is Burhinus Capensis. It is a common resident in any open country area, including parks and fields. They are often found in pairs and are masters of camouflage. They can remain absolutely still such that they will not be noticed, but will fly immediately when a predator or a threat is too close. Their diet consists mainly of termites, locusts, beetles, other bugs and sometimes small reptiles. This picture was taken at a place called The Island near Seaview Lion Park, outside Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

Spotted Thick Knee

Spotted Thick Knee

Spotted Thick KneeSpotted Thick Knee

A Google Map on the location of The Island

View The Island in a larger map