Southern Double-collared Sunbird (Cinnyris chalebeus)

Cover photo: BirdPix 4828 – Michael Brooks.

Identification

The Southern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris chalebeus is a small sunbird in the family Nectariniidae. The male and female look different from one another. The male has a pale grey belly and relatively narrow red breast band. The female is overall grey-brown. The only similar species it overlaps with in geographic range is the Greater Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris afer. It differs from the Southern Double-collared Sunbird by being about 20% larger, with a longer, heavier bill, a much broader red breast band in the male, and a slower song.

Main photo: BirdPix 4828 – Michael Brooks, Cape Town, Western Cape, 30 September 2013. Left inset: BirdPix 34605 – Dieter Oschadleus, Cape Town, Western Cape, 11 February 2017. Right inset: BirdPix 118561 – Johan & Estelle van Rooyen, Vermaaklikheid, Western Cape, 02 May 2016.
Left: BirdPix 103512 – Karis Daniel, Citrusdal, Western Cape, 26 January 2020. Top right: BirdPix 64119 – Zenobia van Dyk, Reneen, Northern Cape, 9 November 2018. Bottom right: BirdPix 68560 – Willem Van Zyl, Cape Town, Western Cape, 6 January 2019.

The female might not be as flashy in her colouration, but still just as elegant. She has brown upperparts and yellowish-grey underparts. Juveniles resemble the females. It can be tricky to tell the difference between female Southern Double-collared Sunbirds and other female sunbird species. In general, Southern Double-collared Sunbird females are greyer below than female Orange-breasted Sunbirds, and darker below than female Dusky Sunbirds.

Female Southern Double-collared Sunbird: BirdPix 26644 – Gregg & Desire Darling, Clarkson, Eastern Cape, 15 May 2016.

This beautiful little sunbird gives a characteristic short two-note “cher-cher” call and a rapid high-pitched song of up-and-down notes. Take a listen in the video below:

Habitat

It prefers fynbos, Karoo shrubland, as well as woodland, Afromontane forests, gardens, and even Eucalyptus plantations.

Male Southern Double-collared Sunbird in its natural habitat enjoying some nectar: BirdPix 218221 – Josu Meléndez, Simon’s Town, Western Cape, 29 April 2022.

Distribution

Southern Double-collared Sunbirds are endemic to southern Africa, occurring from the far south of Namibia to South Africa. The core of their distribution is centred around the Western Cape extending east and north to KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province.

SABAP2 distribution map for Southern Double-collared Sunbird, downloaded on 02 May 2022. Details on how to interpret the map can be found here.

Behaviour

The Southern Double-collared Sunbird is usually seen singly or in small groups. Its flight is fast and direct on its short wings. It feeds mainly on nectar from flowers, but also eats fruit, and, especially when feeding young, insects and spiders.

Male and female having a sip of nectar from a bottle-feeder: BirdPix 155231 – Gerald Wingate, Bellville, Western Cape, 04 February 2021.

The nest is built solely by the female in about 25-30 days. The nest has an an oval-shaped structure with a side entrance, built of grass, strands of old man’s beard Galium tomentosum, rootlets, and twigs. All of this is then strongly secured with spider web. There are exceptions though, as some nests (especially in forests) can be constructed entirely out of old-man’s-beard Usnea barbata.

Female Southern Double-collared Sunbird building a nest: BirdPix 191442 – Marius Meiring, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Cape Town, 18 October 2021.

Egg-laying season is almost year-round, peaking from July to September. Southern Double-collared Sunbirds lay 1-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 13-16 days. The chicks are fed by both adults, and they leave the nest after about 15-19 days. The parents feed the chicks until they are about 42-46 days old, at which point the young become fully independent.

Further Resources

Species Text from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name)

Other common names: Klein-rooibandsuikerbekkie (Afrikaans); Ingcungcu (Xhosa); iNcuncu (Zulu); Souimanga Chalybée (French); Halsband-nektarvogel (German).

Recommended citation format: Loftie-Eaton M and Karis D 2022. Southern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris chalebeus. Bird Feeder Project. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at http://thebdi.org/2022/04/11/southern-double-collared-sunbird-cinnyris-chalebeus/

Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
The Bird Feeder Project is a BDI citizen science initiative involving school learners and youth eco-clubs. Learners are taught a scientific protocol for doing 10-minute watches and recording the species they see, in the order they see them. The Bird Feeder Project includes an online identification guide to about 30 of the species seen in gardens in Cape Town. Students will learn how to upload their cellphone photos into the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum, where they will be curated for posterity. The 10-minute watches will rapidly grow into a valuable monitoring database. Karis Daniel is the Project Coordinator and put together the identification guide, Megan Loftie-Eaton helped with the species texts.

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