Pink-throated Brilliant Hummingbird Species

The Pink-throated brilliant (Heliodoxa gularis) is a species of hummingbird found in tropical regions of Central and South America. With its vibrant green plumage and bright pink throat, it is one of the most colorful hummingbird species.


The Pink-throated brilliant measures around 8-9 cm in length and weighs 4-5 grams. The male has metallic green upperparts and crown, with a bright pink throat patch, black bill and white undertail coverts. The female is similar but has a duller throat patch. The underparts of both sexes are grayish-white.

The name “brilliant” refers to the iridescent plumage of this species. In bright lighting, the green feathers on the back and crown gleam with a jewel-like brilliance. When the light hits at certain angles, flashes of violet, gold and blue can also be seen in the plumage.

Distribution and Habitat

The Pink-throated brilliant is found from Mexico south to Bolivia and central Brazil. Its natural habitats are tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests, plantations, and gardens. It occurs at elevations up to 1500 m.

This species can thrive in disturbed and fragmented forest habitats, as long as there are sufficient flowers to provide nectar. It is often seen visiting gardens and parks in urban areas.

Diet and Feeding

Like all hummingbirds, the Pink-throated brilliant feeds on nectar from flowers. It uses its specialized long bill to drink the nectar while hovering in front of flowers. Some favorite nectar sources include heliconia, ginger, ornamental tobacco and other tropical flowers.

The bird also consumes small insects such as spiders and flies, which provideprotein. It catches insects by sallying out from its perch to hawk passing insects.

Unique Adaptations

The Pink-throated brilliant has several unique anatomical and physiological adaptations that allow it to hover and feed while in flight:

– Skeletal – Lightweight, fused bones allow the bird to be extremely light. The wing bones are especially adapted for the rapid wing beats necessary for hovering.

– Muscular – Proportionately large chest muscles and short fibres allow for rapid contractions of the wings. Up to 200 beats per second have been recorded.

– Metabolic – Very high metabolic rate, with an elevated heart rate and oxygen consumption. This provides the energy for flight. Body temperature can reach as high as 42°C.

– Wings – Relatively large wings and wing area relative to the body allow the bird to generate the required lift for hovering. The wings beat in a figure-eight pattern that provides lift on both the downstroke and upstroke.

– Feathers – Stiff, blade-like feathers maximize air resistance while minimizing weight. They produce a buzzing, humming sound.


The Pink-throated brilliant breeds in the rainy season between May and August. The male performs courtship displays, flying in repeated arcs and dives to impress the female.

The female builds a small cup nest out of plant fibres, spider webs and lichen on a low branch or tree fork. She lays two tiny white eggs. She incubates the eggs alone for 15-19 days.

The chicks hatch with their eyes closed and minimal down. The female alone broods and feeds the chicks with regurgitated nectar and insects. The chicks fledge in around 20-28 days.

Conservation Status

The Pink-throated brilliant has a very large range and is not currently considered threatened. The IUCN Red List classifies it as a species of Least Concern.

However, localized declines have been noted in some areas due to habitat loss. Expanding agriculture and grazing pressure have caused deforestation of its natural lowland forest habitat.

The species may also face threats from climate change in the future. Over the longer term, drying trends in Neotropical regions could reduce nectar availability.

Fun Facts

– The Pink-throated brilliant gets its scientific name Heliodoxa from the Greek words helios meaning “sun” and doxa meaning “glory”. This refers to the radiance of its plumage.

– Males perform aerial displays during courtship, rapidly climbing then diving while making buzzing sounds with their wings and tail. These steep dives can reach speeds of 380 body lengths per second.

– To feed, the bird’s tongue darts in and out of its bill up to 13 times per second. Their tongues have tube-like sheaths that suck up nectar.

– Hummingbirds have surprisingly aggressive territorial behavior. The Pink-throated brilliant will chase away other birds from its nectar sources and perches.

– Their rapid metabolism requires them to consume up to twice their body weight in nectar each day. To meet this need, they enter a hibernation-like state called torpor at night to conserve energy.

In summary, the beautifully-colored Pink-throated brilliant hummingbird is a fascinating species that is exquisitely adapted to hover and feed on nectar in its tropical habitats of the Americas. With its specialized anatomy and physiology, it thrives in gardens and disturbed forest environments. This iconic tropical species deserves continued study and conservation to preserve its unique ecological role.