Short-crested Coquette Hummingbird Species

The short-crested coquette (Lophornis brachylophus) is a small hummingbird found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. With an average body length of 7-8 cm (2.8-3.1 in) and weight of 3-5 g (0.11-0.18 oz), it is one of the smallest hummingbird species in the world.

Identification

The short-crested coquette male has metallic green upperparts and white underparts. It has a bright crimson forehead and throat, with a short white crest behind the bill. The female is similar but lacks the crimson and white crest, instead having green upperparts and greyish underparts with green spots on the throat. The short straight bill and white tips to the outer tail feathers help distinguish this species from other similar hummingbirds.

Distribution and Habitat

This hummingbird inhabits tropical lowland rainforests and woodland edges from sea level to 1200 m elevation. Its range extends across northern South America east of the Andes, including southeast Venezuela, the Guianas, southeast Colombia, eastern Ecuador, northeast Peru, northern Bolivia and western Brazil. It typically occurs in humid forests near streams and rivers.

Food and Feeding

Like all hummingbirds, the short-crested coquette feeds on nectar, visiting a variety of brightly colored tubular flowers. It prefers flowers of the Heliconia genus but has been observed visiting bromeliads, gingers, and other epiphytes and shrubs. To supplement this diet, it feeds on tiny insects including mosquitoes, spiders, and gnats, often caught in flight. Its short straight bill is adapted for probing into flowers.

Behavior

The short-crested coquette is solitary and territorial, aggressively defending flower patches and chasing intruders. Males perform elaborate courtship displays, flying back and forth in front of females while fanning their colorful tails and vocalizing. They are fast and agile flyers, capable of hovering and rapid direction changes midair. They utilize their sharp vision and maneuverability to forage in dense forest areas. At night they enter torpor to conserve energy.

Breeding

The breeding season of the short-crested coquette varies across its range but typically aligns with peak flower availability. Males establish and defend small territories centered around nectar supplies. Courting pairs build a tiny cup nest out of plant down and fibers on a low branch or tree fork, camouflaging it with lichens. The female lays 2 tiny white eggs and incubates them alone for 15-19 days. The chicks hatch with their eyes closed and little to no down. The female alone cares for and feeds the chicks, which fledge at about 18-26 days old.

Vocalizations

The short-crested coquette males have a variety of high-pitched squeaky vocalizations used in courtship displays. Both sexes produce sharp chip notes when chasing intruders or alarmed. Their wings also produce a buzzing and whirring sound in flight.

Conservation Status

The short-crested coquette has a wide range and large total population, estimated at 100,000-1 million individuals. Its population appears to be stable and it adapts readily to modified habitats, so the IUCN Red List categorizes it as a species of Least Concern. Habitat loss is a potential threat, so protected reserves across its range help ensure its ongoing survival. As with many small hummingbirds, it is vulnerable to climate change impacts on flowering and insect availability.

Interesting Facts

– The genus name Lophornis refers to the distinctive crest of feathers on the male’s head. Brachylophus means “small crest”.

– Like many hummingbird species, the short-crested coquette has brilliant iridescent plumage that appears to change color in different light. This is produced by specialized feather structures that refract light.

– Hummingbirds have the highest metabolic rate of any homeothermic animal. To conserve energy overnight, they enter a hibernation-like state called torpor where their metabolic rate and body temperature significantly decrease.

– The short-crested coquette’s wings beat up to 70 times per second and its heart rate can reach over 500 beats per minute during flight. This immense exertion requires enormous amounts of energy from almost constant feeding.

– Their feet are very small with anisodactyl toes (three facing forward, one back) that enable them to skillfully cling and perch.

– Hummingbirds have often been depicted in indigenous cultures of the Americas, appearing in legends, songs, and designs. They are seen by many as messengers, healers, or transformations of warriors.

In summary, the diminutive and dazzling short-crested coquette is a fascinating tropical hummingbird adapted to accessing nectar in dense South American rainforests. While small in stature, it shares the incredible flight capabilities and energetic demands that make all hummingbirds unique among birds. Provided sufficient habitat and food sources remain, this species should continue brightening South American forests with its jewel-like colors.