Small birds and bats face strong selection pressure to digest food rapidly in order to reduce digesta mass carried during flight. One mechanism is rapid absorption of a high proportion of glucose via the paracellular pathway (transfer between epithelial cells, not mediated by transporter proteins). Intestinal paracellular permeability to glucose was assessed for two nectarivorous passerines, the Australian New Holland honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) and African white-bellied sunbird (Cinnyris talatala) by measuring the bioavailability of radiolabelled, passively absorbed L-glucose. Bioavailability was high in both species and increased with diet sugar concentration (honeyeaters, 37 and 81% and sunbirds, 53 and 71% for 250 and 1000mmoll-1 sucrose diets, respectively). We conclude that the relative contribution of paracellular to total glucose absorption increases with greater digesta retention time in the intestine, and paracellular absorption may also be modulated by factors such as intestinal lumen osmolality and interaction with mediated glucose uptake. The dynamic state of paracellular absorption should be taken into account in future studies.