any of about 95 species of the songbird family Nectariniidae (order Passeriformes) that have brilliant plumage in breeding males. They are 9 to 15 cm (3 12 to 6 inches) long and live chiefly on nectar. Unlike hummingbirds, sunbirds rarely hover while feeding but instead perch on the flower stalk. Sunbirds are most numerous in Africa but occur eastward to Pacific islands. A widely distributed African species is the splendid sunbird (Cinnyris coccinigaster), with purple head, green back, and black wings and tail. A related group, the spider hunters (Arachnothera), are plain species with longer bills and shorter tails; they are found in Southeast Asia.
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