The Tufted Coquette (Lophornis ornatus) is a small hummingbird found in tropical regions of South America. With its vibrant colors and distinctive tufted head feathers, this species is highly sought after by birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.
The tufted coquette is a member of the hummingbird family Trochilidae. There are over 330 described hummingbird species, making them the second largest family of birds behind tyrant flycatchers. Hummingbirds are found exclusively in the Americas, with most species occurring in South America. Their name refers to the characteristic humming sound created by their rapid wing beats, which allow them to hover in place and fly in all directions with precision.
Hummingbirds have the fastest metabolic rate of any homeothermic animal, requiring frequent feeding on nectar and small insects. To support their high energy lifestyle, hummingbirds have evolved adaptations including a rapid breathing rate, an enlarged heart, and the ability to torpor – lowering their body temperature and metabolic rate during periods of cold weather or food scarcity.
The tufted coquette is a small hummingbird, measuring 6-7 centimeters in length and weighing around 3-4 grams. As its name suggests, it can be easily identified by two raised tufts of feathers extending from the forehead. The male has an iridescent golden-green head andupperparts, a bright white breast, and a dark forked tail. The female is similar but less vibrantly colored. This species is non-migratory and occupies the same small territories year-round.
Range and Habitat
The tufted coquette has a wide distribution across northern and central South America. Its range extends along the Andes mountains from Venezuela and Colombia south to Bolivia and central Brazil. It occurs in humid montane forest and woodland edge habitat at elevations between 500-2400 meters.
Within its range, the tufted coquette prefers areas with plenty of flowering plants and orchards that provide nectar. It is also found near streams and in areas with moss-covered trees that offer material for nest building. This species has adapted well to human habitat modification and can often be spotted visiting gardens and parks.
Like all hummingbirds, the tufted coquette meets its high energy requirements through frequent feeding, visiting hundreds of flowers each day. It prefers to feed on nectar from trumpet-shaped flowers such as fuchsias, salvias, and angel trumpets. The long, specialized bill allows the bird to reach nectar at the base of these flowers.
The tufted coquette also feeds on small arthropods including spiders, flies, and aphids. While hovering in place, the hummingbird uses its bill to snatch up insects as a source of protein.
During feeding, the tufted coquette exhibits territorial behavior, chasing other hummingbirds from its preferred feeding sites. However, it may also feed cooperatively in loose flocks of a dozen or more birds visiting particularly productive flower clusters.
Courtship and Breeding
The breeding season for the tufted coquette varies across its range but typically coincides with periods of flower abundance from late winter to early summer. To attract females, the male engages in elaborate courtship displays, flying in U-shaped patterns and dive displays to show off his colorful plumage. If a female shows interest, mating takes place.
The female tufted coquette alone builds a small cup-shaped nest out of soft plant fibers, spider webs, and lichens. The nest is camouflaged on top of a horizontal tree branch, palm frond, or pole. The female incubates the two tiny white eggs for 15-19 days before they hatch. Both parents feed the chicks with regurgitated food. The young leave the nest after 22-26 days, gaining independence soon after.
An abundant and adaptable species, the tufted coquette is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. However, habitat loss in parts of its range may pose a threat. Fortunately, this hummingbird remains widespread in protected areas across tropical South America. Eco-tourism and observation of the tufted coquette provides an incentive for preservation of its Andean forest habitat.
– The tufted coquette has one of the widest altitudinal ranges of any hummingbird, occupying elevations from lowland tropical rainforest up to cold high-elevation grasslands.
– Its two head feather tufts are unique among hummingbirds and their purpose remains a mystery. Theories suggest they may play a role in courtship displays or be used to signal aggression.
– Hummingbird species like the tufted coquette that occupy territories all year are highly aggressive. They spend more time chasing intruders than migratory species.
– Male tufted coquettes perform elaborate diving courtship displays, plummeting from heights of 5-15 meters above the female before pulling up at the last second.
– The Anna’s hummingbird is the only other hummingbird species besides the tufted coquette with a forked tail. This aids their precision maneuverability.
The vibrant tufted coquette is a fascinating hummingbird adapted to thrive in neotropical forests. As development encroaches on its range, maintaining protected corridors will be key to ensuring the continued survival of this unique species.