Bronzy Inca Hummingbird Species

The Bronzy Inca (Coeligena coeligena) is a medium-sized hummingbird found in the Andes mountains of South America. With its metallic bronzy-green plumage, white tail feathers, and long, curved bill, it is one of the most distinctive members of the hummingbird family.

Range and Habitat

The Bronzy Inca inhabits montane forest and woodland edges across the Andes mountains, at elevations between 2000-4800 meters. Its range extends from central Peru south through Bolivia and northern Chile and Argentina.

Within this region, it occurs in valleys and slopes with plenty of flowering plants and scrub. It prefers areas with minimal human disturbance. Changes in land use, such as clearing of forest for agriculture, are threats to its specialized high elevation habitat.


Reaching lengths of 11-12 centimeters, the Bronzy Inca is a medium-sized hummingbird with a long, slender shape. As the common name suggests, the plumage of adult males is largely bronzy-green on the head, back, rump, and underparts. The tail feathers are white. The bill is fairly long, slim, and downward curved. Females are similar but have white spotting on the throat and breast. Juveniles lack many of the colorful feathers of adults.

Diet and Feeding

Like all hummingbirds, the Bronzy Inca feeds mainly on nectar from flowering plants such as fuchsias and epiphytic herbs. Their long, specialized tongue allows them to drink while hovering in front of the flower. They also capture small insects to supplement their diet with protein.

To support their fast metabolism, Bronzy Incas feed almost constantly when awake, visiting hundreds of flowers per day. Some favorite food plants include species in the genera Bomarea, Agave, and Abutilon.

Unique Adaptations

The Bronzy Inca shows several unique anatomical and physiological adaptations to its extreme mountain habitat. Its wings are especially elongated, allowing the bird to fly even in the thinner air of high elevations. It has greater lung and heart capacity compared to similar-sized hummingbirds at lower elevations.

Specialized hemoglobin in its blood allows the Bronzy Inca to function with low oxygen availability. It has insulating, dense feathers to conserve body heat. These adaptations allow it to thrive in cold temperatures and low oxygen levels that would challenge other hummingbird species.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The breeding season for Bronzy Incas is between October and January. As with most hummingbirds, the mating system is promiscuous – males mate with multiple females and provide no parental care. Females build small cup nests out of plant fibers and feathers on sheltered sites, often on low branches overhanging streams.

The female lays two tiny white eggs. She incubates them alone for about 16-19 days until they hatch. Once the chicks hatch, she feeds them with regurgitated nectar and insects. They fledge at around 20-28 days old.

Males establish breeding territories centered around patches of food plants or nest sites. Their territories often gather into a clustered breeding area known as a lek. Here males perform elaborate aerial displays, diving and swooping to attract females. The distinctive tail feathers help advertise their presence.

Threats and Conservation Status

With its remote and inaccessible habitat, the Bronzy Inca faces no major imminent threats. Its population appears stable, leading the IUCN Red List to classify it as a species of Least Concern. Even in protected areas, however, it may suffer declines if climate change alters flower production or nesting conditions at high elevations. Preserving corridors between mountain habitat areas will allow this unique hummingbird to shift its range as needed.

Cultural Significance

For indigenous Quechua people of the Andes, hummingbirds have long held cultural and spiritual significance, viewed as sacred creatures. Their agility and hovering flight seem to transcend natural laws. The Bronzy Inca’s exotic appearance and association with mountain temples adds to its mystique.

Hummingbirds also played a role in courtship rituals, with woven depictions of hummingbirds given as tokens between lovers. Continued appreciation and stewardship of Andean habitats will ensure the persistence of this special high-elevation species. With its unique adaptations and striking beauty, the Bronzy Inca represents an iconic Andean hummingbird for future generations to admire.