Gurney’s Sugarbird has a patchy distribution on the highlands on the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, in Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa (suitable parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape), where it inhabits montane grassland and scrub dominated by proteas and aloes. They feed on nectar from a wide range of flowering plants and also include insects and spiders in their diet to a lesser extent.
Usually seen singly or in pairs, Gurney’s Sugarbirds only congregate in larger numbers at rich food sources. When breeding they form monogamous bonds, with the male defending the pair’s territory while the female builds the nest; a shallow, cup-shaped formation of twigs, grass, rootlets and bark lined with grass and fluffy protea-seeds usually placed in a fork in a protea bush. The breeding season spans the spring and summer months. The female alone incubates the clutch of 2 eggs over a period of about 3 weeks, while both parents feed the chicks, which leave the nest when they’re 3 weeks old, on a diet of insects and spiders. The chicks remain dependent on their parents for another 3 weeks or so after fledging. Fully grown Gurney’s Sugarbirds measure up to 29cm long (including the tail) and weigh between 30 and 40g.
Gurney’s Sugarbird is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN, owing to an apparent decline in their numbers likely attributable to loss of their preferred habitat to commercial plantations and damaging land management practices.