A large nectar-eating bird with a decurved beak and a long graduated tail. Dull brown above, it is mostly pale below with a broad rusty breast band and crown and a yellow undertail. Pairs prefer to breed in areas of flowering Protea in escarpment mountains; when these become senescent, the sugarbirds move to lower altitudes, congregating on other flowers such as aloes. The species sings a characteristic scratchy, jumbled twittering and twanging. The larger Cape Sugarbird is similar, but has a much longer graduated tail, moustache-like stripes, and a harsher song, and lacks the rusty breast and crown.