The many-spotted hummingbird is a small, colorful hummingbird found in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador. With its vibrant green upperparts, white underparts covered in green spots, and long tapered tail, the many-spotted hummingbird is a real jewel of Central and South America’s avifauna.
This species shows considerable variation across its range, with several subspecies exhibiting different spotting patterns and colors. It prefers forest edges, second growth scrub and gardens, where it feeds on nectar and small insects. Keep reading to learn more about the identification, range, habitat, diet, behavior and conservation status of this beautiful hummingbird.
The many-spotted hummingbird lives up to its name, sporting plumage that is liberally covered in tiny iridescent emerald-green spots. The male has brilliant metallic green upperparts, from its back to its crown. The edges of its flight feathers are black. The underparts are clean white and completely covered in the green spotting, from chin to undertail, though the spots become sparser towards the belly. The wings are blackish. The long tail feathers are mostly rufous-brown with paler tips. The straight black bill is of medium length for a hummingbird. Females resemble the males but have slightly duller plumage, with more white visible amongst the spotting on the underparts.
Some of the many-spotted hummingbird’s subspecies show interesting variations. Amazilia p. aglaiae of western Panama/Costa Rica is more bronzy above compared to the emerald-green nominate race. A. p. inexcpectata of southwest Ecuador has a brilliant violet-blue tail with a rufous base, along with more purple spotting.
Range and Habitat
The many-spotted hummingbird has a relatively restricted range in Central and South America. Its breeding range extends along the Pacific slope from southeast Costa Rica through western Panama. It is also found disjunctly in parts of western Colombia and along the southwest coast of Ecuador. Outside of the breeding season, it may wander as far north as Nicaragua.
This species inhabits a range of forest and scrub habitats, usually near water. It favors forest edges, second growth, plantations, gardens and riparian corridors. It occurs up to 2500 m elevation in the Andes.
Diet and Feeding
Like all hummingbirds, the many-spotted hummingbird has a specialized diet of nectar and small insects and spiders. It uses its long, slender bill to drink nectar from a variety of colorful tubular flowers such as Heliconia, Costus, Erythrina, Burmeistera and Palicourea. It also hawks small insects in flight or gleans them from leaves and branches. Separate from other hummingbirds, it has been observed visiting bromeliads to drink water trapped in the plants.
The species visits many types of habitats when feeding, including palm swamps, forest edges, and gardens rich in nectar flowers. It maintains feeding territories during the breeding season. Males perform display flights to court females and drive intruders away.
Behavior and Breeding
The breeding season of the many-spotted hummingbird varies across its range but usually coincides with the early wet season, so eggs hatch when food is abundant. Courting males perform impressive dive displays, flying up 10 meters or more before swooping down past the female in a blur of buzzing sound. Once paired, the female builds a tiny cup nest on a low horizontal branch, decorating the exterior with lichens for camouflage. She incubates the two white eggs alone for about 16 days. The chicks fledge in roughly 3 weeks.
Roosting and Torpor
At night, many-spotted hummingbirds enter a state of torpor to conserve energy. Their metabolic rate slows to a fifteenth of their normal rate. They choose protected roosting spots like dense tangles of vegetation or cavities in trees. If overnight temperatures drop too much, individuals may not survive the night.
Vocally, many-spotted hummingbirds produce a range of high-pitched squeaking and buzzing notes. Both males and females sing, with males’ display song being more complex during courtship. The species is known to produce a song type containing symmetrical repeated phrases.
While the many-spotted hummingbird remains relatively common across parts of its range, its populations are declining. Habitat loss and fragmentation present the major threat. The species has disappeared from some protected areas where it formerly occurred. Its sensitivity to cold makes it vulnerable to unusual freeze events. The many-spotted hummingbird is evaluated as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Protecting its preferred habitats will be key to its continued survival.
– An agile flier, the many-spotted hummingbird can beat its wings up to 70 times per second! It can also fly straight up, down, backwards and upside-down.
– A many-spotted hummingbird’s heart rate can reach as high as 1,260 beats per minute while in flight. At rest, it drops dramatically to around 250 bpm.
– Many-spotted hummingbirds get most of their sugar intake from nectar, but they also eat small insects for protein. An individual can consume up to twice its own body weight in insects per day!
– The many-spotted hummingbird’s green spotted plumage provides camouflage in vegetation. When a predator approaches, it often freezes in place, relying on its cryptic coloration.
– This species has one of the smallest bird nests in the world, with a diameter of only about 5 centimeters and a depth of 2 cm. The tiny eggs are only 12 mm long.
In summary, the many-spotted hummingbird is a delightful Neotropical species renowned for its exquisite plumage and energetic flight displays. While facing some conservation threats, it remains locally common across its specialized forest and scrub habitat. This petite bird plays an important role as pollinator and insectivore across its limited range. With proper habitat protection, watching and photographing this tiny jewel will continue to dazzle bird enthusiasts well into the future.