Malachite Sunbird

© Roger De La harpe
Malachite sunbird male in breeding colours, on a pin cushion protea.


Malachite sunbird - Nectarinia famosa

Malachite Sunbird Appearance

Malachite sunbirds are a sexual dichromatism species. (The male and female have different plumage).

The male malachite sunbird is 25 cm in length, this includes the central tail feathers. The breeding male’s plumage is bright metallic green in colour, with darker wings and a small yellow pectoral patch. The eclipse colouring (non-breeding), upper parts are brown, and the underparts are yellow, speckled with green. The wing tips and tail are green. The feet, legs and bill are black.

The female malachite sunbird’s plumage is brown on the upperparts and a dull yellow below. Some indistinct streaking is visible on the chest. The female is around 15 cm in length, as she has a shorter tail


The malachite sunbird feeds on nectar, insects, spiders and occasionally small lizards. 

The malachite sunbird favours nectar from aloes and will feed by either perching or hovering. They also hawk flying insects.

Malachite Sunbird Breeding

Malachite sunbird are monogamous. They build an oval nest of grass and leaves, with a side or top entrance, often over water. The female lays one to three eggs that are incubated solely by the female for around 14 days. Both parents feed the hatchlings.

The malachite sunbird is a brood host to Klaas, Diderick and Red-chested cuckoo’s.

Malachite Sunbird Behaviour

Malachite sunbird are very territorial and aggressive towards other sunbirds when nesting. Outside of the breeding season, the malachite sunbird is highly gregarious and will form flocks of 100’s of birds.



Malachite Sunbird Distribution and Habitat

Malachite sunbird are found in riverine woodlands and fynbos areas. This bird is a common park and garden visitor. The malachite sunbird can be seen in the southern parts of South Africa and along the West Coast where fynbos is present.