Promerops gurneyi (Gurney's sugarbird) 

Rooiborssuikervoël [Afrikaans]; Gurney-suikervogel [Dutch]; Promérops de Gurney [French]; Gurneys honigfresser [German]; Papa-açúcar de Gurney [Portuguese]

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Promerops gurneyi (Gurney's sugarbird)  Promerops gurneyi (Gurney's sugarbird) 

Gurney's sugarbird, Sani Pass from South Africa to Lesotho. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Gurney's sugarbird, Cavern Resort, Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ©]

For information about this species, see

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to southern Africa, occurring in Zimbabwe's eastern highlands and Limpopo Province extending into Mpumalanga, with a separate population in western KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho and the far east of the Eastern Cape. It generally prefers montane habitats with Aloe, Protea and Strelitzia, also occupying Protea farms; its distribution is strongly linked to that of the Silver protea (Protea roupelliae).

Distribution of Gurney's sugarbird in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  


It mainly feeds on nectar (especially of Protea species), supplemented with arthropods gleaned from flowers and hawked aerially; in one study it spent 8% of it foraging time catching prey, increasing to 18% in the breeding season when it feeds arthropods to the chicks. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Nectar
    • Protea
    • Erythrina (coral-trees)
    • Greyia (bottlebrushes)
    • Halleria lucida (Tree-fuchsia)
    • Kniphofia (torch lilies)
    • Leonotis (wild daggas)
    • Leucosidia sericea (Oldwood)
    • Leucospermum (pincushions)
    • Buddleja (sagewoods)
    • Faurea (beechwoods)
    • Watsonia (watsonias)
    • alien plants
      • Callistemon viminalis (Bottlebrush)
      • Eucalyptus
  • Arthropods


  • The nest (see image below) is built solely by the female in about 5-15 days, consisting of a shallow cup made of rootlets, twigs and bark fibres, lined with grass and the brown fluff and seeds of proteas. It is typically placed in a fork, between branches or at the base of an inflorescence with branches below it, usually in Silver protea (Protea roupelliae) but also Common protea (Protea caffra) and cultivated proteas on flower farms.
Promerops gurneyi (Gurney's sugarbird)   

Gurney's sugarbird nest with chicks, Dullstroom, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season coincides with the flowering of proteas and is almost year-round, mainly peaking from September-February.
  • It lays 1-2 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 16-28 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents on a diet of mainly insects, leaving the nest after about 19-23 days and becoming fully independent roughly 20 days later.


Not threatened, although destruction of protea-savanna habitats is cause for concern, although it has benefitted greatly from protea farming. However control measures might be implemented as it damages the flowers, causing farmers to lose income.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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