Backyard Birds

Palestine Sunbirds or Northern Orange-tufted Sunbirds

The Palestine Sunbirds or Northern Orange-tufted Sunbird (Cinnyris oseus) is a small passerine bird of the sunbird family which is found in parts of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. It is also known as the Orange-tufted Sunbird, a name which is also used for the similar Orange-tufted Sunbird (Cinnyris bouvieri), found further south in Africa.


The Palestine Sunbird is 8 to 12 cm long with a wingspan of 14 to 16 cm. Males have an average weight of 7.6 g and females weigh around 6.8 g. The bill is fairly long, black, and curves downwards. The plumage of breeding males is mostly dark but appears glossy blue or green in the light.

There are orange tufts at the sides of the breast which are hard to see except at close range. Females and juveniles are grey-brown above with pale underparts. Non-breeding males are similar but may retain some dark feathers.

It has a high, fast, jingling song and various calls including a harsh alarm call.

Habitat and range

It occurs in areas with high temperatures and dry climates from sea-level up to an altitude of 3200 m. It inhabits dry woodland, scrub, wadis, savannas, orchards, and gardens and is common in towns in some areas.

The Middle Eastern subspecies C. o. oseus breeds from Israel and Jordan in the north, down through western Saudi Arabia to Yemen and Oman in the south. In recent decades it has colonized the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Some birds reach Lebanon and Syria in winter and it has bred in Lebanon.

The African subspecies C. o. decor set is found very locally in parts of Sudan, northwest Uganda, the Central African Republic, the north-east Democratic Republic of Congo, and northern Cameroon.


The diet consists mainly of insects and nectar. The tongue is long and brush-tipped to extract nectar from flowers. The birds usually feed while perched beside a flower but they are also capable of hovering.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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