Andean Emerald Hummingbird Species

The Andean Emerald Hummingbird (Amazilia franciae) is a stunning, vibrantly colored hummingbird found in the Andes Mountains of South America. With over 140 different hummingbird species found in the Andes, the Andean Emerald is considered one of the most beautiful and remarkable.

Physical Description

The Andean Emerald hummingbird averages 6.5-7 centimeters in length, approximately the size of a large bumblebee. The male has unmistakable bright emerald green plumage covering its head, back, and belly. The emerald color appears iridescent in sunlight. The tail feathers are slightly forked and a deep blue-black color. The female Andean Emerald lacks the dramatic emerald coloring of the male. She is more modestly attired in light grey-green plumage on the head and back, with a white belly dotted with green spots. Both sexes have a straight black bill adapted for drinking nectar.

Geographic Range

The Andean Emerald inhabits the Andes Mountains from Venezuela to Bolivia and Chile. It resides at elevations between 2400-4000 meters where the climate is cool and humid. This high elevation mountain range provides ideal habitat for the Andean Emerald and many other specialized hummingbird species found nowhere else in the world. The hummingbirds are drawn to the diversity of nectar-rich flowering plants and abundant insect life at these heights.


The Andean Emerald occupies a niche habitat called elfin forest found at the tree line between the mountains and grassland plains. Elfin forests are composed of stunted, windblown trees and shrubs adapted to the harsh conditions at high elevations. Other important habitat includes cloud forest and mountain meadows. The Andean Emerald is found darting among flowering plants such as fuchsias, lupines, and daisies as they extract nectar with their long, specialized tongues. Some favorite food plants include the red-flowered Inca lily and the pink-flowered angel’s trumpet.


Like all hummingbirds, the Andean Emerald has unique adaptations for hover-feeding on flower nectar. Their wings can beat up to 15 times per second, allowing them to precisely maintain position while lapping nectar with an extendable tongue. The Andean Emerald will aggressively defend nectar-rich food sources from intruders. Hummingbirds also have the highest metabolism of all birds, requiring frequent feeding. To meet their extreme energy needs, they supplement their diet with small insects like gnats, aphids, and spiders. The long bill of the Andean Emerald is adapted to probe into crevices among leaves and petals to snatch up these tasty insects.

Courtship and Breeding

The breeding season for the Andean Emerald coincides with the flowering season between February and June in their South American range. Males perform elaborate courtship displays, flying in u-shaped patterns to impress watching females. If receptive, the female will allow the male to mate with her. The female Andean Emerald builds a tiny cup-shaped nest out of plant materials and spider webs on a thin tree branch. She lays just two pea-sized white eggs and incubates them for about 16-19 days. The attentive mother then feeds the hatchlings with regurgitated insects and nectar over the next 20-26 days until they can fly from the nest.

Conservation Status

The Andean Emerald hummingbird is evaluated as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While some local populations may be threatened by habitat loss and climate change, overall their widespread distribution and large population size provides resiliency. As with many tropical birds though, long-term population monitoring is needed to detect any declines that would warrant increased conservation action. Fortunately, the remote and rugged Andean highlands offer protection to wildlife inhabiting this globally important ecosystem. The Andean Emerald persists in several protected areas across its range. Further preservation of mountain forests and scrubland will benefit the vibrant Andean Emerald and its specialized pollinating role in the ecosystem.

The Mystique of Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds hold a special place in human culture. Their diminutive size, dazzling iridescence, and aerial agility make them seem like tiny magic spirits visiting the flowers. The Aztecs called them “flying jewels”. The Andean Emerald and 140+ other hummingbird species worldwide display incredible adaptations for hovering flight, specialized feeding, and surviving in diverse habitats. Scientists continue working to understand these mysterious tiny powerhouses of nature. Feeders providing sugar water are an easy way to observe and enjoy hummingbird antics near your own home. Simply watching an Andean Emerald male shimmer and dive will inject some natural wonder into your day.

Key Facts

– There are over 140 species of hummingbirds found only in the Western Hemisphere, the majority in South America.

– Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world, with the Bee Hummingbird of Cuba at just 2 inches long and 2 grams in weight.

– Their heart rate can reach 1260 beats per minute and they take 250 breaths per minute while flying.

– Their wings beat in a figure 8 pattern and can flap 15-80 times per second. This allows them to hover in place.

– Hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of all animals relative to their size to support their extreme activity level.

– They consume up to 2-3 times their body weight in nectar each day, spread across multiple small meals.

– Besides drinking nectar, hummingbirds eat insects for protein, capturing them midair or gleaning them from plants.

– They have a long, forked tongue adapted for nectar-lapping which extends out of the bill when feeding.

– To conserve energy overnight, hummingbirds go into torpor, lowering their metabolic rate and body temperature.

– The Andean Emerald lives on average 5-6 years, with the oldest recorded at 12 years old.

– Hummingbirds play a key role as pollinators. As they access nectar, pollen sticks to their head and bill and travels to the next flower.

– Climate change poses a threat to hummingbirds through habitat shifts, changes in flowering and nectar availability.

The dazzling Andean Emerald and its hummingbird relatives showcase the incredible diversity and adaptation seen across life. By providing suitable habitat and food sources, we can help protect these captivating creatures. The hummingbirds in turn brighten our lives and keep ecosystems thriving through their special role as pollinators.