The Amethyst Sunbird, also known as the Black Sunbird for the male’s dark plumage, is naturally a bird of coastal forests and moist savannas and woodlands that have become quite well adapted to suburban parks and gardens, and actually extended its distribution thanks to these most suitable, if unnatural, habitats. In common with most other members of the sunbird family their diet is mostly made up of nectar from a wide variety of plants and supplemented with occasional soft-bodied insects.
Amethyst Sunbirds breed throughout the year, with a peak in nesting during spring and summer. Despite being considered monogamous, the male plays surprisingly little part in the rearing process. The female builds the nest alone, using spiderwebs to hold together an oval-shaped structure consisting of leaves, bark, twigs and the stems and blades of grass with an entrance hole on the side. The female is also solely responsible for the incubation of the clutch of 1-3 eggs over a 3 week period. The male even leaves most of the feeding of the chicks, which fledge before they’re 3 weeks old, to the female.
Being one of the larger sunbirds, weighing around 15g and measuring about 14cm in length, Amethyst Sunbirds are quite aggressively dominant over most other members of the family when they mix at prized flowering plants. They are usually seen singly or in pairs.
The Amethyst Sunbird is widely distributed through South Africa – from Cape Town all along the southern Cape coast and through the Garden Route to the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, north-eastern Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng and North West. Beyond our borders they’re found as far as the Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Somalia. The IUCN considers it to be of least concern.