The White-vented Plumeleteer (Chalybura buffonii) is a medium-sized hummingbird found in South America. With its vibrant colors and unique features, this species stands out among its hummingbird relatives.
The white-vented plumeleteer measures around 8-9 centimeters in length and weighs 5-8 grams. The male has striking metallic green upperparts and a clean white underside. The throat and breast are glittering emerald green, while the belly is snowy white. As the name suggests, this hummingbird has conspicuous white “trouser feathers” on its undertail coverts. The long bill is red with a black tip. The female is similar but less vibrant, with grayish-green upperparts and whitish underside with green spots on the throat.
The white-vented plumeleteer gets its name from the dramatic white plume-like tail feathers which are unique to the males of this species. These specialized feathers can measure up to 5 cm long, more than half the length of the bird’s body. When fanning its tail, these elongated feathers create a distinctive plume trailing behind. The tail plumes are thought to play a role in courtship displays.
Range and Habitat
The white-vented plumeleteer is found along the eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in South America. Its range stretches from western Venezuela south through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. It occupies humid montane forest and woodland edges at elevations between 500-2000 meters.
Like all hummingbirds, the white-vented plumeleteer feeds on flower nectar and tiny insects. It uses its specialized long, slender bill to drink nectar from tubular flowers. It prefers flowers with sturdy petals that can support its weight as it hovers, such as those from Heliconia plants and flowering trees from the myrtle family. The hummingbird also hawks small insects like flies and spiders snagged from spiderwebs to obtain protein.
Behavior and Breeding
The white-vented plumeleteer lives solitary or in pairs, with males defending flower-rich territories. Males perform elaborate courtship displays, flying in looping U-shaped patterns and diving while fanning their plume-like tail feathers to impress females.
Females build a small cup nest out of plant fibers, spider webs, and lichens camouflaged on a tree branch. Two white eggs are laid, and the female incubates them alone for 15-19 days. Once hatched, the chicks are fed regurgitated insect matter by the female. They fledge the nest at 22-26 days old.
Status and Conservation
The white-vented plumeleteer is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. It has a relatively wide distribution and large population, estimated between 100,000-1 million individuals. While some localized declines have occurred due to habitat loss, its population overall remains steady. Much of its range overlaps protected areas. Continued protection of montane forest habitat will be important for the persistence of this dazzling hummingbird.
The white-vented plumeleteer is sought after by birdwatchers across its range for its stunning plumage. It also holds a special significance in Bolivian culture, where it is celebrated in festivals. The Yampara people have a legend about the origin of the hummingbird’s long plume-like tail feathers, which are used in traditional dances. The white-vented plumeleteer appears on the 1 boliviano coin in Bolivia.
– The male’s tail plumes are the longest tail feathers relative to body size of any bird in the world
– To conserve energy, plumeleteers enter a state of torpor at night by lowering their body temperature and metabolism
– The wings beat up to 70 times per second, allowing these tiny birds to hover and fly backwards
– Specialized tongue structure allows them to lap up nectar at a rate of up to 13 licks per second
– High-speed camera studies show hummingbirds adjust their wings in a figure-8 pattern rather than flapping up and down
– Heart rate can reach as high as 1,260 beats per minute during flight
The dazzling white-vented plumeleteer stands out for both its beauty and its unique adaptations. This petite hummingbird has captured the interest of scientists and bird enthusiasts with its ornamental plumes, speedy flight, and role in Andean culture. With continued habitat conservation, this jeweled species will continue to glitter across its mountainous abode.