White-bearded Helmetcrest Hummingbird Species

The white-bearded helmetcrest (Oxypogon stuebelii) is a species of hummingbird found in Colombia and Ecuador. With its brilliant purple crown and distinctive white beard, the white-bearded helmetcrest is one of the most striking hummingbirds in South America.


The white-bearded helmetcrest measures approximately 11-12 cm in length and weighs around 6-8 grams. The male has vibrant iridescent purple and green plumage on its crown, nape, and throat. As the name suggests, the male also has a prominent bushy white beard extending below its beak. The upperparts are dark green, while the underparts are white with green sides. The long bill is straight and black. The female is similar but has a pale green crown and lacks the male’s bushy white beard. Juveniles resemble the female but have pale fringing on the crown feathers.

Distribution and Habitat

The white-bearded helmetcrest is endemic to Colombia and Ecuador. Its range extends along the Andes mountains from southwestern Colombia to southern Ecuador. Within Colombia, it occurs only in the departments of Nariño and Putumayo. In Ecuador, it inhabits the high Andes from the Sangay National Park south to the Loja province.

This species inhabits cloud forest and elfin forest at elevations of 2900-3600 m above sea level. It prefers areas with abundant flowering plants and is often found along forest edges or in open areas with scrubby vegetation.


Like all hummingbirds, the white-bearded helmetcrest feeds on nectar taken from a variety of colorful, tubular flowers. It uses its specialized long, slender bill to drink the nectar. It has a rapid wingbeat and can hover in place as it inserts its bill into flowers. The species prefers flowers with a curvature suited to the shape of its bill. Some favored food plants include species in the genera Bomarea, Fuchsia, and Puya. The helmetcrest supplements its diet with small insects which provide additional protein. It catches insects in flight or picks them off vegetation.

Behavior and Breeding

The white-bearded helmetcrest is solitary and territorial. Males establish breeding territories which they aggressively defend from intruders by chasing them and engaging in midair physical battles. TheirPRIMARY DOCUMENT

Males perform elaborate courtship displays to attract females which can include hovering in place, flying in U-shaped patterns, or flying rapidly back and forth. Once paired, the female builds a small cup-shaped nest out of plant fibers and spider webs on a tree branch. She incubates the two white eggs for about 16-19 days until they hatch. The chicks fledge in around 22-26 days.

Conservation Status

The white-bearded helmetcrest is classified as endangered by the IUCN. Its small geographic range and specific habitat requirements make it vulnerable. There are thought to be only around 2500 mature individuals remaining. Deforestation for timber extraction and clearance for agriculture represent the main threats. Climate change may also impact this high elevation species. However, some of its habitat lies within protected areas like Sangay National Park which offers a degree of protection. Continued habitat conservation and expanded protected areas will be important for the long-term survival of the white-bearded helmetcrest.

Fun Facts

– The white beard for which the white-bearded helmetcrest is named only appears on adult males and is thought to serve as a visual cue to attract mates. The beard begins growing when males reach 2-3 years old.

– The helmetcrest gets its name from the belted crests of modified feathers on the heads of males. These can be raised or flattened to signal aggression or courtship.

– Like all hummingbirds, the white-bearded helmetcrest has incredibly rapid wing beats required for sustained hovering. Its wingbeat rate is estimated at 12 beats per second.

– This species has very short legs relative to its body length. Its feet are only around 1 cm long and adapted for perching rather than walking or hopping.

– The white-bearded helmetcrest exhibits ‘altitudinal migration’ where it moves to lower elevations in winter to escape extreme cold and then returns uphill in spring.

In summary, the magnificent white-bearded helmetcrest is a threatened Andean hummingbird renowned for its vibrant plumage and energetic territorial displays. Ongoing conservation efforts focused on habitat protection offer hope for the future of this species and its unique high elevation ecosystem. With its dazzling crown feathers and distinctive beard, the helmetcrest will hopefully continue to captivate observers with its beauty for years to come.