The bird-flower element of the Canary Islands is a group of endemic plants having traits characteristic of bird pollination, and some are visited by opportunistically nectar-feeding passerine birds. 2. We investigated evolutionary changes in nectar sugar composition in seven Canarian lineages of ornithophilous plant species and their entomophilous relatives. 3. We hypothesized that nectar sugar composition evolved in response to the main pollinator group of a plant. Specialist nectarivores can assimilate sucrose, whereas some opportunistic nectar-feeders digest only the simple hexoses. 4. Sugar composition of nectars was analysed using high pH anion exchange chromatography. 5. Evolution of nectar type was correlated with mode of pollination. Generally, sucrose nectars were associated with insect visitation and hexose nectars with bird visitation. Nectar sugar composition was an evolutionary labile trait within a lineage. Hence, nectar characteristics may have evolved readily, perhaps in response to opportunistically nectarivorous birds living in Canary Islands.