Violet-chested Hummingbird Species

The violet-chested hummingbird (Sternoclyta cyanopectus) is a species of hummingbird found in South America that is easily distinguished by its vibrant violet chest plumage. With around 340 known species, hummingbirds display incredible diversity in size, coloration, behavior, habitat, and more. The violet-chested hummingbird belongs to the family Trochilidae and is placed alone in the monotypic genus Sternoclyta. This colorful and diminutive bird inhabits areas of northern Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and far northern Brazil.


The most striking feature of the adult male violet-chested hummingbird is the bright violet patch in the center of its chest that stands out vividly against the green throat and belly. The belly transitions to a white underside. The back and head are a metallic green that shifts between golden-green and blue-green in different lights. The tail is primarily rufous with a black subterminal band. The bill of the violet-chested hummingbird is straight and black. Females lack the vivid violet chest patch and instead have pale gray underparts with a white belly. Both sexes have green upperparts and a rufous tail with a black band. These hummingbirds reach lengths of about 8-9 centimeters and weigh 4-5 grams.

Feeding Habits

Like all hummingbirds, the violet-chested hummingbird has unique adaptations for hovering in place and extracting nectar from flowers. Their long slender bills are perfectly suited for reaching into tubular blossoms. Their slender tongues extend to lap up nectar. They can lick up to 13 times per second. These energetic birds feed mainly on nectar but also consume small insects for protein.favorite flowers include Heliconia, Inga, and Erythrina blossoms. The violet-chested hummingbird will aggressively defend flower-rich feeding territories from intruders. This species exhibits a particular behavior calledtrap-lining in which individual birds regularly visit favorite flower patches in a set circuit.

Unique Hovering Ability

The ability to hover sets hummingbirds apart from other birds. The violet-chested hummingbird can rapidly beat its wings up to 70 times per second, allowing it to precisely maintain position while feeding. Short bursts of acceleration up to almost 40 mph enable the agile bird to change direction instantly. The metabolic rate of hummingbirds is exceptionally high. At rest, their heart rate can be over 500 beats per minute. In flight, their heart rate can reach as high as 1,200 beats per minute. Their rapid breathing matches their elevated heart rate. This energetic lifestyle requires that hummingbirds consume more than their weight in nectar each day, visiting hundreds or even thousands of flowers daily.

Courtship Displays

During courtship displays, the male violet-chested hummingbird ascends approximately 130 feet into the air before diving downward while making a cracking or popping sound with his tail feathers. This steep dive ends with an abrupt pull up. Females observe these displays to assess potential mates. Once paired, the female will collect materials like down and spider webs to construct a tiny cup-shaped nest on a low branch or fern frond. She incubates the two tiny eggs alone for about 15-19 days. The chicks are fed regurgitated food by the female and fledge in roughly 20-26 days.

Habitat and Range

The violet-chested hummingbird inhabits tropical lowland rainforests and woodland edges from sea level up to 800 meters in elevation. Its range is limited to northern regions of South America including Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and the Amazonas and Roraima regions of far northern Brazil. Within its range, this species is generally uncommon. Destruction of its specialized rainforest habitat is the primary threat facing the violet-chested hummingbird.

Ecuadorian “Violet-chested” Hummingbird

The name “violet-chested hummingbird” can sometimes cause confusion, as this term is also occasionally used to refer to a subspecies of the Ecuadorian hillstar hummingbird (Oreotrochilus chimborazo chimborazo) found in Ecuador. This Andean hummingbird occupies a very different range and habitat from the lowland rainforest-dwelling violet-chested hummingbird of Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and Brazil. The adult male Ecuadorian hillstar hummingbird displays vivid violet-blue on its throat rather than its chest. It prefers high elevation habitats rather than lowland tropical rainforests. The confusion stems from the outdated name Oreotrochilus cyanogaster given to the Ecuadorian hillstar when it was still considered conspecific with the lowland violet-chested hummingbird. In reality, they are quite distinct species.

Threats and Conservation

The wild population of the violet-chested hummingbird is estimated to number only between 250-999 individuals. Its highly limited range and specialized rainforest habitat make this species vulnerable to extinction. Deforestation for agriculture, logging, and mining threatens this hummingbird’s survival. Climate change and drought may also impact its fragile habitat. Eco-tourism focused on this rare bird may potentially aid in habitat protection efforts. Further studies on population sizes and threats to the violet-chested hummingbird will help inform conservation strategies. Creating protected reserves in areas of known range and limiting deforestation are key conservation goals to prevent this vividly-colored species from vanishing.

The Unique Allure of Hummingbirds

Weighing less than a nickel and reaching just inches in length, hummingbirds are the smallest birds on the planet. Yet they undertake amazing migrations and demonstrate incredible athleticism and stamina. Their miniature size, dazzling iridescent colors, and energetic behavior captivate people around the world. The violet-chested hummingbird is a prime example of a striking and specialized hummingbird adapted to thrive in the tropical environs of South America. Conserving these fragile and charismatic birds is critical to preserving avian biodiversity. The violet-chested hummingbird remains a mysterious and little-known rainforest jewel deserving of more extensive research and conservation efforts to ensure its future survival.