The double-collared sunbirds of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and southeastern Kenya are characterized by regional variation in morphology and plumage. That variation has resulted in considerable dispute over their taxonomic status and delineation of range boundaries. It has been suggested that Moreau's Sunbird (Nectarinia Moreaui) is an atypical phenotype that has arisen from a hybridization event between the more widely distributed Eastern Double-collared Sunbird (N. mediocris) and the narrowly distributed Loveridge's Sunbird (N. loveridgei). A discriminant analysis of six standard morphological characters indicates that Moreau's Sunbird is intermediate in shape and size between the Eastern Double-collared and Loveridge's sunbirds. There is greater overlap between female Moreau's and Eastern Double-collared sunbirds than between males; Loveridge's Sunbird shows little overlap with the other taxa. Discrete plumage characters separate all three taxa. Molecular analyses of 728 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA (NADH3 and control region) suggest that Moreau's Sunbird is a valid taxon and the sister species to Loveridge's Sunbird. Eastern Double-collared Sunbird haplotypes can be divided into three distinct clades, separated from each other by substantial genetic divergence (approximately 8–10% sequence divergence). We propose species status for each of those clades and suggest the following three taxa: N. mediocris Shelley 1855, N. usambarica Gröte 1922, and N. fuelleborni Reichenow 1899. Finally, we propose a biogeographical hypothesis of speciation events within the N. mediocris species complex.
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Vol. 121 • No. 3