Cape Sugarbird

The Cape Sugarbird is a species restricted to the Cape Fynbos region

South Africa BirdlifeThe Cape Sugarbird {Promerops cafer}

The Cape Sugarbird is a species restricted to the Cape Fynbos, showing a distinct preference for Fynbos, which has many protea plants. The Cape Sugarbird is brown above and paler below.

These highly photogenic birds have a white chin and distinctive brown stripe, with a white line above it. The underparts are paler - the female with a white chest centre and belly, and streaking on the flanks and lower belly.

In both sexes the undertail is bright yellow, and the top of the head is dull brown. A striking feature of this little bird is that the Male has a very long tail (twice the length of the body) and the female a tail of about half that length.

Quick Facts


Males are 34-44 cm long; Females are shorter-tailed and shorter-billed and 25-29 cm long.
Weight is 30 to 40g when fully grown.


Because it is dependant on the Protea for nectar and as nesting site, the Cape Sugarbird is endemic to the fynbos biome of the Western Cape extending into the Eastern Cape. Also commonly seen in rural gardens and urban areas.


The Cape Sugarbird is common in the Western Cape Province, including in botanical gardens and distributed throughout the Cape Floral Region. The sugarbird is one of a family (of only two species, Gurney's Sugarbird being the other) This family is restricted to Southern Africa.


Its prime source of sustenance is the nectar from protea species (Leucospermum and Mimetes) which makes the Cape Sugarbird an important pollinator of these plants. It also feeds on the nectar of other plants and feeds on insects including aphids, grasshoppers, beetles, flies etc.


Usually seen in pairs or groups, the male often sitting prominently at the top of a large protea bush. The Cape Sugarbird is monogamous and a solitary nester, the male defends his territory from other birds and predators.


In South Africa the Cape Sugarbird breeds during winter, from February to August, but mainly from April to May in the south-western Cape Province. The nest is an untidy cup-shape made of twigs, grass roots and pine needles, lined with protea down. It is placed in the fork or tangled branch of a protea bush or other large leaved trees.


The eggs (usually 1-2 eggs are laid) are incubated by the female and hatch after 12 to 21 days. Young fledge at 18 days of age but are independant only after an additional 3 weeks.

Life Expectancy

Estimated at 7 years.


Adults may be prey to White-necked raven; Chicks and eggs are preyed on by the small grey mongoose, rodents, other birds (shrike and boubou) and the Olive house snake.


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