The violet-capped hummingbird (Colibri coruscans) is a small yet strikingly colorful hummingbird species found in South America. With its bright violet crown and throat feathers, green back plumage, and white underside, this hummingbird lives up to its name with its dazzling violet head plumage.
Range and Habitat
The violet-capped hummingbird is found across various countries in South America including Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. Its natural habitats are subtropical and tropical moist lowland forests and heavily degraded former forest areas.
This species occurs at elevations ranging from sea level up to 2400 meters. It has a relatively wide distribution across northern and central South America. However, the global population size and trends have not been quantified but the species is described as uncommon to locally fairly common in areas of its range.
Reaching only 9 to 10 centimeters in length and weighing 5 to 7 grams, the violet-capped hummingbird is a tiny bird. As implied by its name, the crown and throat feathers are a bright metallic violet or purple color. The back and wing feathers are primarily green with some brownish coloring on the flight feathers. The underside is white from the throat down to the tip of the tail. The tiny bill is straight and black.
Males and females look similar, although the female’s colors are slightly duller compared to the glittering vibrant plumage of the male. Juveniles appear mostly brownish-gray with some faint purple or green feathers starting to emerge on the crown and back.
Diet and Feeding
Like all hummingbirds, the violet-capped hummingbird feeds primarily on nectar from flowers. It favors flowers with sturdy petals which it can perch on while feeding such as those from plants in the Heliconia genus. It uses its specialized long, straw-like tongue to lap up the nectar while hovering in front the flower.
Small insects such as gnats, flies and spiders may also supplement its diet especially during breeding season when higher protein is required. The hummingbird feeds while flying, typically lapping up nectar every 10-15 seconds.
The violet-capped hummingbird has several unique adaptations that allow it to hover and feed while in flight. Its wings can beat up to 70 times per second, giving it the ability to fly straight up, down, backwards and upside down. Muscles and bones in its wings are incredibly strong despite their small size.
Its metabolism is extremely high with a heart rate that can reach up to 1,200 beats per minute. This allows it to generate enough energy to support its rapid wing beats and active lifestyle.
The long specialized bill and tongue are perfectly shaped to extract nectar from flowers. Their tiny size allows them to feed from the smallest of blooms.
Behavior and Breeding
The violet-capped hummingbird is solitary and territorial. Males establish breeding territories which they aggressively defend from intruders including other male hummingbirds. Their displays when defending territory include vocalizations and dramatic dive displays.
Females build a tiny cup-shaped nest out of soft plant fibers, spider webs and lichens. The nest is usually located on a low tree branch or shrub. She will lay two tiny white eggs in the nest, which she will incubate alone for about 15 to 16 days. Once hatched, the chicks are fed regurgitated food by the female. They fledge after about 20 to 26 days in the nest.
Threats and Conservation
Habitat loss from deforestation poses risks to the violet-capped hummingbird in parts of its range. The species has likely declined due to extensive habitat degradation, although its population status across its full range is not well quantified.
More research is needed to determine population trends for the species across different areas. Efforts to preserve its forest habitat and natural food sources will be important for its long-term survival. In some protected areas it remains fairly common.
Appreciating a Stunning and Graceful Species
The dazzling violet-capped hummingbird is a beautiful species to behold. Its range covers extensive areas across South America, yet more studies are needed to fully determine its population health. Preserving its natural forest habitat will be key to ensure thriving numbers.
With its glittering violet feathers, incredible flying abilities and tiny size, this species is one of nature’s wonders. By protecting it and its habitat, humans have the opportunity to safeguard the survival of this stunning and graceful creature. The vibrant violet-capped hummingbird deserves appreciation and stewardship to allow its beauty to persist in its native lands.