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Beautiful Sunbird (Cinnyris pulchellus) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

History of Managed Care

  • Rare in zoos, as are most sunbird species
    • Today and historically
  • San Diego Zoo and Safari Park (Dave Rimlinger and Athena Wilson, personal communication)
    • First exhibited at the San Diego Zoo in 1968
    • First successful breeding at the San Diego Zoo in 1992
    • One of the few zoos to successfully display and raise Beautiful Sunbirds, from eggs, in managed care (as of August 2016)
      • Chicks have been parent reared and hand reared (from day 1)
      • New husbandry techniques continually being developed
        • Still much to be learned
    • Social interactions observed
      • Interactions with other African birds species
      • Females appear to do most of the feeding, as do wild Beautiful Sunbirds
        • Have observed the male partner feeding chicks, as well
  • Rearing of sunbirds in managed care in the United States dates back to at least 1960 (Dellinger and Eckart 1991), perhaps earlier
    • Courtship and nest-building behaviors have been reported through the decades (Dellinger and Eckart 1991)
    • For articles on sunbird husbandry, two relevant publications include The Avicultural Magazine and The American Federation of Aviculture’s Watchbird



  • Sunbirds have high energy requirements (Holland 2007)
  • Require much time and attention, especially during acclimation (VanDegrift 1989; Holland 2007)

Diet in managed care

  • Adults
    • Artificial nectars containing carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals (especially calcium) (Peaker 1990; Holland 2007)
    • Fresh fruit (VanDegrift 1989; Dellinger and Eckart 1991; Holland 2007; Athena Wilson, personal communication)
      • E.g., papaya and banana
    • Spiders, fruit flies, and other insects (VanDegrift 1989; Holland 2007)
  • Chicks
    • Spiders, crickets, meal worms, waxworms, fruit flies, and other small insects (VanDegrift 1989; Peaker 1990; Dellinger and Eckart 1991; Dave Rimlinger and Athena Wilson, personal communication)
      • Protein important for chick development
      • Chicks have a near insatiable appetite for spiders
        • Consumed through fledging period
        • Adults knock off the spiders’ legs before feeding them to chicks
  • Water is also important
    • Use frequently to bathe (VanDegrift 1989; Peaker 1990; Holland 2007)


  • During breeding, require materials for nest-building (VanDegrift 1989; Holland 2007; Athena Wilson, personal communication)
    • Dried grasses, thin leaves, mosses, spiders’ webs, animal hair, feathers, etc.
    • Similar materials to those used in the wild
  • In some locations, may need heaters throughout the year for extra warmth (Peaker 1990; Holland 2007; Athena Wilson, personal communication)

Rarely Seen in Zoos

Beautiful Sunbird at the San Diego Zoo

A Beautiful Sunbird, Cinnyris pulchellus, living at the San Diego Zoo during the 1970s.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

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