Purple-collared Woodstar Hummingbird Species

The Purple-Collared Woodstar (Chaetocercus jourdanii) is a small hummingbird found in coastal regions of northwestern South America. With an average body length of 7-8 cm and weight of 2-3 grams, it is one of the smaller hummingbird species. Its name refers to the male’s brilliant purple throat which contrasts sharply with its otherwise green plumage.

Range and Habitat
The purple-collared woodstar has a relatively restricted range along the Pacific coast from southwestern Colombia to northern Peru. Its habitat consists primarily of dry forests, thickets, and scrublands near the coast. It can adapt to disturbed habitats but avoids densely forested areas. This species occurs at elevations up to 1200 m above sea level.

The adult male purple-collared woodstar has glittering green upperparts and whitish underparts. As the name suggests, the male has a brilliant gorget (throat patch) that shimmers between violet and purple depending on lighting conditions. The tail is mainly rufous-colored with a dark subterminal band. The female lacks the flashy gorget and is duller overall, with a pale gray throat, greener upperparts, and heavier spotting on the underside.

Both sexes have a straight black bill and whitish feathering at the base of the bill. Their outer tail feathers are pointed and their wings are long and slender as is typical of most hummingbirds. Juveniles resemble adult females but with buffier edges to the feathers.

Diet and Feeding
Like all hummingbirds, the purple-collared woodstar feeds on floral nectar and small insects and spiders. It favors flowers with the highest sugar concentrations, using its specialized long tongue to lap up nectar. It also hawks small insects in flight or picks them off leaves and branches.

This species seeks out flowers of plants such as fuchsia, aloe, and other tubular blossoms. It prefers to feed in more open habitats along forest edges. The birds use their slender bills to access nectar at the base of long tubular flowers.

Behavior and Breeding
The purple-collared woodstar occurs alone or in pairs, only coming together at flower patches or nest sites. Males are highly territorial, using wing buzzing displays to chase intruders from their feeding and nesting areas.

Courtship displays include the male hovering in front of the female and flying in vertical U-shaped patterns. Once paired, the birds construct a delicate cup nest on a vertical tree branch, often overhanging water.

The female lays just two tiny white eggs. She incubates them alone for 15-19 days until they hatch. The chicks fledge in about 3 weeks, after which they reach independence. Not much else is known about the nesting habits of this species.

Threats and Conservation
Habitat loss from development and agriculture represents the major threat facing the purple-collared woodstar. Climate change and drought may also impact its limited range. This species has a very small global population estimated at just 2500-10,000 mature individuals. For this reason, the purple-collared woodstar is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

Protecting remaining patches of dry forest and scrub habitat will be important for conservation of this woodstar. Ecotourism may potentially benefit the species by giving local communities incentive to preserve wild areas. More research is needed on factors limiting the population and on effective habitat management techniques. Captive breeding has not yet been attempted for this species.

Fun Facts

– The male purple-collared woodstar can beat its wings up to 70 times per second during its “bee-like” hovering flight. This creates the distinctive buzzing or humming sound.

– Hummingbirds have unique skeletal and flight muscle adaptations that allow them to hover in place and fly backwards or upside down. Their wings are able to rotate almost 180 degrees.

– Hummingbirds have the fastest metabolism of any vertebrate animal. Their heart rate can reach as high as 1260 beats per minute during flight.

– To conserve energy at night, hummingbirds go into torpor, lowering their metabolic rate and body temperature.

– The purple-collared woodstar’s long bill allows it to access nectar from exotic flowers such as those in the genus Brugmansia which have been introduced in some areas.

– Traplining is a feeding behavior shown by some hummingbirds including this species, whereby individuals visit a repeated circuit of productive flower patches.

– Young hummingbirds get all their early nutrition from small arthropods before they become adept at feeding from flowers. Adults also supplement their diet with small insects.

– Purple-collared woodstars use spider silk and lichen to decorate the exterior of their nests. The purpose of this decoration remains a mystery.

– Males establish feeding territories during the breeding season. Unpaired males may congregate in small leks to attract females.

– Hummingbirds play an important ecological role as pollinators for many plant species. Their specialization on nectar-bearing flowers drives the evolution of certain floral traits.

In summary, the purple-collared woodstar is a diminutive yet vibrant hummingbird displaying some interesting behaviors and occupying a limited range along the Pacific coast of South America. Loss of habitat poses the most significant threat to the species, which is considered Near Threatened. Protecting remaining fragments of its specialized dry forest and scrub habitat will give the best chance of conserving this unique bird into the future. More research and monitoring of population trends is also needed. With appropriate conservation measures, the purple-collared woodstar will hopefully continue lighting up South American forests with its iridescent colors.