Viridian Metaltail Hummingbird Species

The Viridian metaltail (Metallura williami) is a species of hummingbird found in Ecuador and Peru. It is a member of the trochilidae family and is the only species within the Metallura genus found outside of Colombia.

Physical Description
The Viridian metaltail is a small hummingbird, measuring only 9-10 cm in length and weighing 5-7 grams. As the name suggests, the male has an iridescent viridian (greenish-blue) crown and throat. The rest of the upperparts are golden green. The underparts are white with green sides. The female is similar but has a pale throat and lacks the iridescent crown. The long bill of the Viridian metaltail is straight and black.

Habitat and Range
The Viridian metaltail is found along the eastern slopes of the Andes mountains in Ecuador and northern Peru. Its elevational range extends from around 1500-3000 m above sea level. It typically inhabits cloud forests and elfin forests characterized by epiphyte-laden trees and dense vegetation.

The species has a patchy distribution within its limited range. In Ecuador, it is found locally in several protected areas including Podocarpus National Park and the Sumaco and Antisana Ecological Reserves. In Peru, it occurs in small isolated populations in areas like Abra Patricia Reserve and the Cordillera Huayhuash. Due to ongoing habitat loss, its global population is estimated at only 600-1700 mature individuals.

Behavior and Ecology
The Viridian metaltail is a solitary, territorial species that spends most of its time in the mid-level to upper canopies of montane forests. The male establishes and aggressively defends a feeding territory throughout the breeding season. His metallic chattering vocalizations are part of territorial displays against intruding males.

Like other hummingbirds, the Viridian metaltail feeds on nectar taken from a variety of colorful, tubular flowers such as epiphytic ericas, bomareas, and beslerias. It also takes small arthropods. A key behavior is traplining, in which an individual remembers the locations of and regularly visits productive flowers.

Reproduction takes place between October and January. The female builds a delicate cup nest on a descending fern or palm frond, laying two tiny white eggs. She alone cares for the chicks.

Conservation Status and Threats
Due to its small and fragmented population, the Viridian metaltail is classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. The major threat facing this species is widespread deforestation for agricultural development, timber extraction, and human settlement within its specialized mountain forest habitat. Climate change and drought may also impact its high elevation ecosystem.

Ecuador and Peru have set aside protected reserves, but only a small fraction of the hummingbird’s habitat is found within national parks and ecological reserves. Further habitat protection and restoration are badly needed. Compiler data on population trends is needed to better assess its status. Captive breeding and reintroduction programs may help restore declining populations. Eco-tourism initiatives can also aid conservation efforts.

In summary, the rare and local Viridian metaltail hummingbird faces an uncertain future. Protecting remaining montane cloud forest habitat is crucial for this species survival. Expanding protected areas, limiting deforestation, and initiating reforestation programs focused on key sites will hopefully prevent this unique Andean hummingbird from going extinct. More research and robust population monitoring are also required to fully understand conservation needs. With proper management, the imperiled Viridian metaltail can continue gracing the mountain forests of Ecuador and Peru with its vibrant plumage and lively antics.