Tolima Blossomcrown Hummingbird Species

The Tolima blossomcrown (Topaza pyra) is a species of hummingbird endemic to Colombia. This striking bird has metallic green upperparts and tail, a blue throat, and a reddish-purple crown. The Tolima blossomcrown is classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List with an estimated population of only 250-999 individuals remaining in the wild.


The Tolima blossomcrown measures around 9-10 cm in length and averages 6-8 grams in weight. The adult male has vivid iridescent green upperparts and tail, white underparts, a brilliant violet-blue throat patch, and a shimmering reddish-purple crown for which the species is named. The elongated bill is black, straight and very slender. Females are similar but less vibrantly colored, with a greener crown. Juveniles resemble adult females but have buffy edges to the crown and throat feathers.

This species exhibits a high degree of geographic variation in the color of the crown patch. Birds in the northern part of the range have a more intensely red-purple crown, while those in the south have a darker, more bluish-violet crown. The green upperpart plumage also varies in brightness among different subpopulations.

Distribution and Habitat

The Tolima blossomcrown is endemic to the Andes mountains of west-central Colombia. Its breeding range is extremely localized, restricted to elevations between 2,250 and 3,300 meters in just two departments: northern Tolima and southern Caldas. The total area of occupied habitat is estimated to be only around 500 square kilometers.

This species inhabits subtropical and temperate montane cloud forests, especially near forest edges, clearings and streams. Typical vegetation includes stands of wax palm, flowering shrubs such as fuchsia and mortiƱo, and abundant epiphytes. The hummingbird has also been observed in shaded coffee plantations at appropriate elevations.

Feeding Habits

Like all hummingbirds, the Tolima blossomcrown subsists primarily on nectar taken from a variety of brightly colored, tubular flowers. Some of the key flower species visited include shrubs in the genera Bomarea, Cavendishia, Drymonia and Columnea. This species prefers to feed at flowers that hang downwards on drooping stems or vine structures. The long, slender bill is perfectly adapted for reaching nectar at the base of hanging flowers.

In addition to nectar, these birds will supplement their diet with small insects such as gnats and aphids. They utilize their extensible tongues to dart out and capture insect prey while hovering. Aerial flycatching is occasionally observed as well.

Behavior and Breeding

The Tolima blossomcrown exhibits energetic, acrobatic flight patterns and busy foraging behavior typical of its family. The short wings beat up to 70 times per second, allowing the bird to precisely maneuver through dense vegetation. Males are highly territorial, using wing buzzing and chases to defend prime nectar sources and display perches.

The breeding season occurs primarily from April to July. Males perform elaborate courtship displays, flying in U-shaped or figure-8 patterns to show off their colorful plumage. They also vocalize with squeaky chipping notes. The female builds a delicate cup nest out of plant down and spider webs, attached to a vertical stem or underside of an overhanging leaf. She incubates the two tiny white eggs for 15-19 days. The young fledge after about 20-26 days in the nest.

Conservation Status

The Tolima blossomcrown is classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List and has one of the most limited distributions of any Colombian endemic bird. The population is estimated at just 250-999 mature individuals and continues to decline. Habitat loss poses the most significant threat. An estimated 44% of suitable habitat has been lost over the past 55 years, mostly due to deforestation. The remaining forest is severely fragmented, limiting dispersal. Climate change may also impact the narrow elevational band the species inhabits.

This species has been identified as one of the 100 highest priority endemic birds in the Americas based on its extreme rarity and threat level. However, it occurs almost entirely outside the protected area network in Colombia. Conservation actions urgently needed include habitat protection, corridor creation, anti-deforestation measures, monitoring, and community engagement. Captive breeding has not yet been successfully implemented for this or any other Topaza hummingbird.

Ecotourism Potential

Due to its dazzling appearance and endangered status, the Tolima blossomcrown presents excellent potential as a flagship species for bird-based ecotourism and conservation in Colombia. Areas where the birds occur could be developed as lodges or information centers for specialized birding tours. Strict controls would need to be implemented to prevent habitat degradation and disturbance to the hummingbirds. If properly managed, ecotourism centered around this rare species could boost local economies while also increasing awareness and funding for habitat protection efforts. However, ecotourism infrastructure development would need to be minimal and carefully regulated.


The plight of the Tolima blossomcrown underscores the threats faced by many Neotropical cloud forest specialists with tiny ranges. While daunting, the conservation challenges are not insurmountable if addressed soon. This species has the potential to be saved through urgent action. But its long-term survival depends on maintaining significant areas of intact, connected cloud forest habitat. This will require addressing complex social and economic factors driving deforestation while also developing sustainable alternatives. By making space for the Tolima blossomcrown, many other unique but lesser-known species would also benefit.