Of the larger nectar loving birds found within Southern Africa the two geographically exclusive sugarbird species are arguably the most striking and charismatic!
These two Southern African endemic species occur within the rich indigenous floral kingdom extending south along the Great Escarpment and west along the coastal plain. This unique family is closely related to the suite of sunbirds, which includes several colourful species in the sub-region. There is no overlap in the distribution between the two species as was the case in the past in the Amatola Mountains.
Cape Sugarbirds are the larger of the two species within this family. Their distribution extends throughout the ‘fynbos’ biome from Cape Town to slightly north of Port Elizabeth, and can be found perched on any of the varied protea family of blooms. We are lucky enough to be able to enjoy them for most of the year as they are regular visitors to our Cape fynbos garden. They entertain us with their constant twittering and flitting about, and in particular their ability to manage their long tails in the very windy conditions of this region!
Gurney’s Sugarbird is the conspicuously smaller and more colourfully plumaged of the two sugarbirds, found on the richly vegetated eastern slopes of the Drakensberg Mountain range extending beyond to the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. These striking birds favour flowering stands of high altitudinal protea and a variety of aloe species for their nectar requirements.
As a collective they are highly entertaining to observe and photogenically delightful subjects. We caught up with them on the eastern slopes of the Drakensberg, flitting about energetically amongst patches of stately aloes which are at their best during the winter flowering season when the orange and crimson flower racemes are in full bloom.