The Brazilian Ruby Hummingbird is a small, brilliantly colored hummingbird found in eastern Brazil. With its vivid, metallic red plumage and long, curved bill, this species is highly sought after by birdwatchers visiting Brazil. There are four recognized subspecies of the Brazilian Ruby, each occupying a distinct range within the Atlantic Forest region of Brazil.
The nominate subspecies, Eugenes fulgens fulgens, is the most widespread and common. The adult male has bright metallic red plumage on its head, back, rump and underparts. It has a blackish tail and wings with an iridescent reddish-violet patch on the wings. The female is similar but has green in place of the red on the back and rump. The bill of both sexes is long, slender and curved.
The Bahian Ruby Hummingbird, E. f. sanfordi, is found in the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil. The adult male is similar to the nominate race but has more coppery or golden reflections to the red plumage. The Salvador Ruby, E. f. salvadori, occurs further south along the coast in the state of Sergipe. The plumage is darker, more coppery red compared to the nominate form. The Esmeraldas Ruby, E. f. esmeraldas, is found in coastal regions of northern Espírito Santo and eastern Bahia states. It is the darkest, most coppery subspecies.
In addition to these described subspecies, some authorities recognize additional forms with minor variations in plumage color and gloss. These include E. f. aurulentus from southern Bahia and northern Espírito Santo, and E. f. rutilans from northeastern Espírito Santo. The taxonomic status of these various populations remains unresolved.
Like other hummingbirds, Brazilian Rubies feed on nectar from flowers using their specialized long bills. They favor flowers of epiphytic bromeliads, as well as shrubs and small trees such as Inga, Calliandra, and Pithecoctenium. They also feed on small insects and spiders to obtain protein.
Male Brazilian Rubies are highly territorial. They defend feeding areas against intruding males through displays involving wing-waving and formation of gorgets, specialized feather ruffs used in displays. Females build tiny, cup-shaped nests out of plant down and spider webs on branches and epiphytes. They lay two tiny white eggs and incubate them for 14-19 days. The chicks fledge in about 20-26 days.
Brazilian Rubies occur in Atlantic Forest habitats from coastal regions to moderately high elevations in mountains. The Atlantic Forest is a highly threatened ecosystem, having suffered extensive clearing and fragmentation. Loss of habitat is a major threat to the Brazilian Ruby and other endemic hummingbirds. Climate change also poses a long-term threat. Protecting remaining tracts of primary forest is crucial for conserving these birds.
Several protected areas provide habitat, including Monte Pascoal National Park and Pau Brasil National Park in southern Bahia, Sooretama Biological Reserve in Espírito Santo, and Serra do Conduru State Park in Bahia. Targeted efforts are underway to restore and connect fragmented habitats in parts of the ruby’s range. However, habitat loss continues in some regions.
Due to habitat loss and restricted range sizes, the Salvador Ruby (E. f. salvadori) and Esmeraldas Ruby (E. f. esmeraldas) are considered near-threatened by the IUCN. The overall Brazilian Ruby population remains relatively large but declining. Continued conservation action is needed to protect remaining populations over the long term. Research into the systematics, population sizes, and ecology of this colorful hummingbird can help inform future management efforts. Ecotourism, if properly regulated, may provide incentives to preserve habitat. With suitable forest protection and climate change mitigation, these iconic hummingbirds can continue to dazzle birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts well into the future.