Community-level studies have shown that plant–pollinator interactions are much more generalized than previously expected. Consequently, many authors have questioned the significance of phenotypic complementarity between plants and pollinators and abundance effects in pollination interactions. Here, we compare the behaviour of three sunbird species feeding on the nectar of five plant species in afromontane vegetation. We studied the feeding behaviour with and without consideration of plant abundance (i.e. diet selectivity and diet composition, respectively). The aims of the study were to estimate: (1) how relative resource abundance influences flower selectivity; (2) the degree of phenotypic matching; and (3) whether different plant resource assessment methods give different answers to this question. The results showed that, although sunbirds frequently feed on both morphologically adapted and nonadapted plants, food selectivity data are consistent with the hypothesis of phenotypic complementarity. Moreover, we found that the type of plant abundance measurement can change conclusions in some cases, as individual plants differ in their growth habits and nectar production. This effect was most obvious for the assessment of selectivity of the northern double-collared sunbird (Cinnyris reichenowi) and for Hypoestes aristata, a plant producing inflorescences composed of a large number of small flowers possessing small amounts of nectar per flower (a high abundance of flowers, but a low abundance of nectar relative to the remaining plant community). © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, ••, ••–••.