The Tapajos hermit hummingbird is a small, strikingly colored hummingbird found in the Amazon rainforest region of northern Brazil. With its long, decurved bill and vibrant plumage, this species is highly distinctive among hummingbirds. The Tapajos hermit inhabits humid lowland rainforests and areas along forest edges, feeding on nectar from a variety of flowering plants.
Despite its limited range, the Tapajos hermit hummingbird has a fairly widespread distribution in the Amazon Basin and is not currently considered threatened. However, habitat loss poses the biggest threat to this species in the future. As development encroaches on rainforest areas, conservation of remaining habitat will be crucial for the survival of the Tapajos hermit hummingbird.
The Tapajos hermit hummingbird reaches a length of about 11-12 centimeters. It has a long, strongly decurved bill that measures around 2.5 centimeters, an adaptation for obtaining nectar from curved flowers. The bill is black on the upper mandible and reddish on the lower.
The plumage of the Tapajos hermit is brightly colored. The upperparts and head are metallic green, appearing golden-bronze or coppery in certain lights. The tail is mostly rufous-chestnut colored with darker central feathers. The male has a prominent rufous-colored throat patch, bordered below with glittering emerald green. The breast is white with fine dark streaks, and the belly is buffy with green spotting on the sides. The female is similar, but has a slightly shorter bill, greener upperparts, and less extensive rufous on the throat and tail. Juveniles resemble adult females but have buff spotting on the throat and breast.
Distribution and Habitat
The Tapajos hermit hummingbird is endemic to Brazil, found only in the Amazon Basin region. Its range extends from the Tapajós and Tocantins River basins in the state of Pará south to the Xingu River basin. Its total extent of occurrence is estimated to be around 260,000 square kilometers.
This species inhabits humid lowland rainforests up to 800 meters in elevation. It prefers primary forest as well as mature secondary forest and forest edges bordering clearings. The Tapajos hermit hummingbird has been reported from terra firme forest, várzea flooded forests, palm swamps, and gardens near forest areas. It appears to avoid dense bamboo thickets.
Like other hermit hummingbirds, the Tapajos hermit feeds mainly on nectar from flowers using its specialized bill. It obtains nectar by licking it with its forked tongue while hovering at flowers. Some favored nectar sources include plants from the genera Costus, Heliconia, and Erythrina.
The long, curved bill of the Tapajos hermit hummingbird allows it to access nectar from flowers with corollas of matching shape, including heliconias. This bill morphology reduces competition from other hummingbird species with shorter, straighter bills. The decurved bill also helps the bird obtain nectar from flowers that face downward.
In addition to nectar, the Tapajos hermit feeds on small insects and spiders. Aerial insects are captured in flight, and other insects are gleaned from foliage. The proportion of insects in the diet increases during the non-breeding season when fewer flowers may be available.
Behavior and Breeding
The Tapajos hermit hummingbird is somewhat solitary, found either alone or in pairs. Males are highly territorial, using wing sounds and aggressive displays to defend rich feeding areas. The flight display consists of the male flying in wide U-shaped or circular patterns while making buzzing, snapping sounds with the wings and tail.
Courtship displays are poorly known but likely involve both aerial and perched displays by the male. As with other hermits, the Tapajos hermit breeds solitarily rather than in colonies. The female alone builds the small cup nest out of plant down and fibers, attached to a vertical branch 2 to 5 meters above ground. Typical clutch size is two eggs, which are incubated by the female for about 15-19 days. After hatching, the chicks are fed with regurgitated food by the female and fledge at 22-26 days of age.
The Tapajos hermit hummingbird has a fairly extensive range and is common within suitable habitat. Its total population size has not been quantified but is believed to number in the tens of thousands. While population trends have not been monitored, the species is not thought to be approaching threatened levels currently.
The Tapajos hermit hummingbird is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, future habitat loss poses the most significant threat for this rainforest-dependent species. Agricultural expansion, logging, fires, and mining in the Amazon region could potentially degrade and reduce available habitat. Eco-tourism and observation by birders may also disturb some sensitive areas. Continued protection of primary rainforest habitat will be important for maintaining viable populations of the Tapajos hermit hummingbird.
There are no known specific cultural roles or uses involving the Tapajos hermit hummingbird. As a relatively widespread but visually stunning rainforest species, it has potential for ecotourism viewing. Its conservation could be promoted as a symbol for protection of Amazonian biodiversity.
The Tapajos hermit hummingbird is a rainforest-dwelling species endemic to the Amazon Basin of Brazil. With its brightly colored plumage and long curved bill, this hermit species is exquisitely adapted for accessing nectar. Although not currently threatened, the Tapajos hermit depends on primary humid lowland forest habitat. Conservation of the species will require maintaining protected areas of rainforest as development pressures in the region continue to mount. Further studies on the ecology and population status of the Tapajos hermit hummingbird are needed to fully assess its conservation outlook.