Spot-throated Hummingbird Species

The spot-throated hummingbird (Leucippus taczanowskii) is a small yet remarkable bird native to the Andes Mountains of South America. Measuring just 3-4 inches in length, this tiny avian is nonetheless a standout among hummingbirds for its unique physical features and fascinating behaviors.

Physical Characteristics

The spot-throated hummingbird gets its name from the conspicuous white spot on its throat, which is set against an overall green plumage on the head, back and wings. The most distinctive feature of this species, however, is its magnificently long and forked tail, which can measure up to 6 inches in the males. Females of the species have slightly shorter tails. The tail feathers shimmer in iridescent greens and purples when sunlight hits them.

Males have a bright crimson forehead patch above their small black beaks. Their breasts are covered in grayish feathers which graduate to bright green on the belly. Females lack the crimson patch and have lighter gray breasts than males. Both sexes have white undersides on their tail feathers, a key way to identify them.

Habitat and Range

The spot-throated hummingbird is found along the Andes Mountains from Venezuela to Bolivia, generally at elevations between 1500-3500 meters. Its prime habitat is cloud forest and elfin forest ecosystems high in the mountains. Here it prefers forests dense with epiphytes where it can find arthropod prey and nectar sources from bromeliads and flowering plants.

The remoteness of its range has made the spot-throated hummingbird relatively understudied compared to lowland South American hummingbirds. Ornithologists still have much to learn about its lifestyle and habits. What is known reveals some fascinating behavioral adaptations to its harsh mountain home.


Like all hummingbirds, the spot-throated hummingbird sustains itself on flower nectar and tiny insects like gnats and spiders. Its long, specially adapted tongue allows it to drink nectar while hovering at flowers. The bill is used to snatch small insects out of the air.

The long tail of the spot-throated hummingbird likely serves as a stabilizer when hovering and dipping at flowers for nectar. Males establish flower-rich feeding territories that they aggressively defend from intruders. Their aerial displays and chases are a sight to behold, as they make daring dives and turns at high speeds.

The spot-throated hummingbird’s metabolism is incredibly high, so it must feed almost constantly throughout the day to sustain itself, visiting hundreds or even thousands of flowers. If not feeding, it enters a energy-saving torpor state to conserve calories.


The breeding habits of the spot-throated hummingbird are intriguing but not fully understood. Males perform elaborate courtship displays, flying in loops and arcs to impress females. Once paired, the female builds a tiny cup nest out of plant fibers, feathers and moss on a horizontal tree branch or trunk.

She lays just two tiny white eggs in the nest. The female alone incubates the eggs for about 16-19 days. Once hatched, the chicks are assiduously fed by their mother for another 20-26 days until they can fly from the nest. The chicks lack their mother’s long tail until their first molt.


A key survival adaptation of the spot-throated hummingbird is its migratory habits. As flowers become scarce during the winter dry season, it migrates downslope to warmer climates with more abundant food, as far north as Colombia and Venezuela. At the onset of spring, it returns back upslope to its breeding grounds.

This migration covers hundreds of kilometers one way, an astonishing feat for such a small bird. By moving in relation to flower seasons, the spot-throated hummingbird ensures itself a constant supply of nutrition.

Threats and Conservation

Major threats to the spot-throated hummingbird include habitat loss from logging and agriculture. Climate change poses a threat to cloud forest ecosystems as well. The remote nature of its range provides some protection, but deforestation could impact populations.

Some key conservation steps needed: protecting intact forest habitat across elevation gradients, allowing altitudinal movements for migration, and maintaining flowering plants across its migratory range.

More field studies on the basic natural history of this species are also needed to inform conservation actions. Tracking migration routes, population sizes, breeding ecology, and resource needs will build scientific knowledge to guide efforts to sustain this amazing and unique Andean hummingbird into the future. With targeted conservation, the magnificent spot-throated hummingbird can continue to thrive as a jewel of South America’s mountain forests.