The green-crowned plovercrest (Stephanoxis lalandi) is a rare and endangered species of hummingbird found only in a small region of southeastern Brazil. With its distinctive bright green crown and throat feathers and long, curved bill, the plovercrest has captivated ornithologists and bird enthusiasts alike. However, due to habitat loss, this unique hummingbird faces an uncertain future in the wild.
The green-crowned plovercrest is a moderately sized hummingbird, measuring about 10-12 cm in length and weighing around 5-8 grams. The male has metallic green upperparts and crown, with a bright violet-blue throat patch. The underparts are white with green sides. The long bill is black and decurved. The female is similar but has green restricted to the crown only, an off-white throat, and more gray on the underparts. The juvenile resembles the female.
This species can be distinguished from other hummingbirds by its uniquely shaped bill, adapted for accessing certain flowers, and its brilliant green crown feathers. When excited, the male will puff up these crown feathers into a dramatic crest. The plovercrest also has a distinctive popping or snapping sound it makes with its tail feathers during courtship displays.
Habitat and Range
The green-crowned plovercrest is endemic to southeastern Brazil. Its extremely limited range covers only about 15,000 square km in the highlands of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais states. It mainly occupies montane rainforests and second growth woodlands at elevations between 800-2000 meters.
This hummingbird seems to prefer areas with many flowering plants at the forest edge and natural openings. Some key food plants include species from the families Bromeliaceae, Ericaceae, and Gesneriaceae. It has also been observed visiting banana feeders in rural areas near its habitat.
Feeding and Behavior
Like all hummingbirds, the green-crowned plovercrest subsists primarily on nectar from flowers. It uses its specialized long, curved bill to access nectar from certain tubular blossoms. This species also consumes small arthropods for protein.
The plovercrest is a solitary species, not forming flocks. Males are highly territorial, using various vocalizations and display flights to advertise and defend nesting and feeding areas. Courtship displays involve the male performing dramatic flying maneuvers and snapping his tail feathers above the female.
Females build a small cup nest out of plant fibers and other materials on a forked branch, often near water. The female alone cares for the young. She lays two tiny white eggs, which hatch after about 16-19 days. The chicks will fledge in around 22-26 days.
Conservation Status and Threats
The IUCN Red List classifies the green-crowned plovercrest as Endangered. It has a very small, fragmented range and its population is estimated at only 250-999 mature individuals, making it vulnerable to extinction.
The biggest threat facing this species is habitat destruction, especially from deforestation, urban expansion, agricultural conversion, and development. Its specialized high elevation habitat has declined over 50% in the last several decades.
Climate change may also impact the plovercrest by altering weather patterns and the availability of flowering plants. Competition from invasive hummingbird species is another potential concern.
Although still at risk, conservation efforts have helped protect some key reserves and raise awareness. Ecotourism initiatives make this rare hummingbird a source of pride and economic revenue for local communities. Further habitat protection and restoration, more research, and proactive management will be critical going forward.
The striking green-crowned plovercrest has captivated bird enthusiasts with its unique appearance and behaviors. However, this Brazilian endemic faces an uncertain future as its fragile montane habitat continues to decline. Targeted conservation initiatives have made some important progress in recent years. Hopefully, increased stewardship and habitat protections can secure the long-term survival of this special hummingbird. Though many challenges remain, the continued existence of the plovercrest in the wild would be a major victory for Brazilian conservation.