Shining Sunbird Cinnyris habessinicus Scientific name definitions

Guy M. Kirwan
Version: 2.0 — Published October 8, 2021


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Many facets of this species’ breeding ecology are still unknown, including both the incubation and fledging periods, the role of the sexes in many facets of the cycle, and nestling behavior and growth (1, 2).


Laying recorded in December–January in Sudan (1, 2), December–February in Eritrea (2), January, April, June, and perhaps August in Ethiopia (36, 2, 23), February–May in Somalia (32, 37, 1), and December, April–July in Kenya (38, 25); sometimes double-brooded (1). Mostly breeds during March–July in Arabia (39, 40, 41, 42, 28, 43), but evidence of nesting activity has been recorded virtually year-round, e.g., nestbuilding has been reported in the third week of January in Omani Dhofar, and newly fledged juveniles have been observed in November in North Yemen (44). No evidence of double-brooding, in contrast to C. habessinicus in Africa (28).

Nest Site


In Arabia, nests have been observed suspended from the spindly outer branch of a tree, e.g., acacia or other prickly species, but also henna (Lawsonia inermis) and guava (Psidium guajava), and occasionally from a cable, normally at least 1.5–9.0 m above ground (28); in Africa, similarly sited 1–7 m (usually 3–4 m) up in a thorny tree or shrub, e.g., Euphorbia (1, 2).



In Africa, the nest is built by the female. Usually the nest is constructed by the female alone, albeit with the male in close attendance (singing or otherwise acting territorially), but one nest in Arabia was recorded as being built by the male (40); and both pair members have sometimes been observed demolishing a nest, for reasons unknown (28).

Structure and Composition

Oval in shape and with distinct porch, made from fibres, grass, leaves, insect cocoons, and cobwebs, lined with plant wool (from seeds of Ipomoea or Calotropis) and feathers (1, 2). Arabian nests similar, also being oval and somewhat elongate, with entrance near the top and sometimes equipped with a slight overhang; the nest often appears whitish, due to the high proportion of spider webs, plant down, fine grasses, cocoons, and cotton wool-like material in the construction (28). The egg cup is lined with small feathers, cobwebs, and wool; and the nest is occasionally decorated with white petals, and once included much white insulation material from a nearby building (28).


100 mm long by 70 mm in diameter (1, 2).



Pyriform (2).


19.5 × 15.0 mm (nominate) or 19.0–19.5 × 13.5–14.0 mm (C. h. turkanae) (2).

Color and Surface Texture

White (and virtually unglossed) with pale gray-brown blotches and black scrawls at the larger end.

Clutch Size

In Africa, clutch one or two eggs. Eggs in Arabia undescribed, but clutch is typically two eggs, although there is one observation of a brood of three fledged young (28).


No information.


No information.

Young Birds


Parental Care

Young are reportedly fed by both sexes, but no additional information.

Fledgling Stage

Fledging period unknown.

Recommended Citation

Kirwan, G. M. (2021). Shining Sunbird (Cinnyris habessinicus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (B. K. Keeney, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.shisun3.02