The male Malachite sunbird, during the breeding season, is one of the most magnificent of all the sunbirds within the region, with bright, metallic green plumage, bright yellow pectoral tufts and a long tail contributing to its overall length of around 25 cm. The female and the non-breeding male are rather dull by comparison. The female, which is approximately 15 cm in length, has grey upper parts and a greyish brown throat and breast, fading to a pale yellow belly. The short tail is grey. The male in its eclipse plumage has grey upperparts and pale yellow underparts flecked with green, and the tail, which remains longer than the female’s tail, is grey.
Malachite sunbirds are fairly widespread within the Southern African region, favouring hillsides in mountainous country, grasslands, riverine forests and even parks and gardens. They feed mainly on nectar, as do most sunbirds, but also on insects, particularly when feeding their young. Insects may be hawked from the air or gleaned from the vegetation while hovering. Their curved beaks and long tongues are well adapted to feeding on nectar.
Malachite sunbirds are usually found singly or in pairs, although they may gather in large groups at abundant food sources. Their song is a high pitched “tseepie-tseepie-tseepie” and the male may display his yellow pectoral tufts while singing.
They are monogamous and build an oval nest with a side entrance near the top. The female lays a clutch of one to three cream-coloured eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 14 days. The nest may be parasitized by the Klaas’s cuckoo (Chrysococcyx klaas).
The scientific binomial for the Malachite sunbird is Nectarinia famosa; Nectarinia from the Latin for “pertaining to nectar”; and famosa from the Latin for “excellent”. Thus we have an excellent bird that associates with nectar, and we can’t say better than that.