Mountain Velvetbreast Hummingbird Species

The Mountain Velvetbreast Hummingbird (Lafresnaya lafresnayi) is a species of hummingbird found in the Andes mountains of South America. With its bright green plumage and red bill, this tiny bird has a vibrant appearance that matches its energetic behavior.

Range and Habitat
The mountain velvetbreast is found primarily in the mountains of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Its range extends from central Colombia south to central Peru, generally between elevations of 2000 to 4500 meters. It resides mainly in humid montane forest and elfin forest habitats. The flowers of brush and small trees dotting this landscape provide the nectar that sustains these high-altitude hummingbirds.

Reaching lengths of 11-12 centimeters and weighing 5-8 grams, the mountain velvetbreast is a fairly large hummingbird, though still diminutive by most standards. As its name suggests, adult males of this species have a velvety black bib across their breast. Their backs and bellies gleam with metallic emerald green feathers. The tail is forked and bluish-black. Females lack the velvet bib and are slightly duller in color. Both sexes have fairly long dark bills that bend slightly downward.

Diet and Feeding
Like all hummingbirds, the mountain velvetbreast feeds mainly on nectar from flowering plants such as fuchsias, lupines and others. Their long bills and extendable tongues allow them to access nectar deep within tubular blooms. They use their nimble flying abilities to hover in place while feeding, beating their wings up to 70 times per second.

In addition to nectar, these birds will eat small insects for essential proteins. They snatch insects out of the air or glean them from foliage. A percentage of their feeding time is spent perched watching for prey to dart after.

Unique Adaptations
The mountain velvetbreast hummingbird has evolved several key adaptations to thrive in its cold mountainous habitat:

– High Altitude Tolerance – It is well equipped to obtain enough oxygen at elevations over 4000 meters where air is thin.

– Cold Hardiness – Thanks to specialized plumage and a rapid metabolism (faster at low temps), it can withstand the frigid overnight temperatures and winter seasons.

– Hovering Ability – Its wing power and maneuverability allow it to precisely hover while feeding on nectar, despite the turbulence of winds at high elevations.

– Camouflage – The emerald green plumage of the males provides excellent camouflage within montane forest vegetation.

Courtship and Breeding
The breeding season for mountain velvetbreast hummingbirds coincides with the blooming of flower species. It generally runs from March to August in their South American range. Though solitary most of the year, breeding brings the birds together.

Males perform elaborate courtship flights to attract females, flying in repeated vertical U-shapes and diving displays. If a female is receptive, she will perch and allow the male to approach. The birds mate, and the female assumes all parental duties.

She builds a delicate cup nest out of plant down and spider webs, attached to a branch or trunk. Within this nest she lays 2 tiny white eggs. She incubates the eggs for about 16-19 days. When they hatch, she feeds the chicks with regurgitated insects and nectar. After another 20-26 days, the chicks will fledge from the nest.

Threats and Conservation Status
While still relatively common within its range, the mountain velvetbreast hummingbird has declined over the past several decades. Up to 30% of its population may have been lost since the 1970s.

Threats to this species include:

– Habitat loss from logging and land clearing
– Climate change impacts at high elevations
– Competition with invasive bird species
– Pesticide use impacting insect prey populations

Due to declining numbers, the mountain velvetbreast was classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List in 2020. Some specific conservation actions that could aid the species include:

– Protecting remaining montane forest habitat from destruction
– Establishing higher elevation nature reserves
– Initiating reforestation programs to reconnect fragmented habitats
– Monitoring populations and nesting success
– Reducing pesticide use in areas of its range

Appreciating a Vibrant Hummingbird
The verdant mountain velvetbreast hummingbird has captivated people across its range, appearing in indigenous art and culture. Its tenacity and vigor in rugged mountain environments have inspired admiration. This petite bird symbolizes the vitality inherent in the world’s smallest birds. Ensuring it thrives along Andean slopes will be a conservation victory worth celebrating.