Blue-tailed Hummingbird Species

The Blue-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia cyanura) is a small hummingbird species found in Panama and northern South America. With its bright blue tail and green plumage, it is one of the most colorful hummingbirds in its range.


The blue-tailed hummingbird is a member of the Trochilidae family, which includes all hummingbirds. With over 300 described species, hummingbirds are found only in the Americas. They are the smallest of all birds, with most species measuring 7-13 cm in length. Their name refers to the characteristic humming sound made by their rapidly beating wings which flap 12-80 times per second depending on the species.

Hummingbirds survive primarily on nectar from flowers. Their long, slender beaks and tongues allow them to access nectar deep within blooms. As they feed, they also pollinate the flowers. Hummingbirds have extremely high metabolic rates to be able to power their rapid wing beats and are constantly feeding. If food is scarce, they can go into a hibernation-like state called torpor to conserve energy.


The blue-tailed hummingbird reaches about 9-10 cm in length and 4 grams in weight. As the name suggests, the male has brilliant turquoise blue outer tail feathers. The back and head are a shimmering green. The throat and breast are white with a green-blue iridescent bib. Females lack the vibrant bib and have white tips on the outer tail feathers rather than blue. Juveniles resemble adult females.

This species has a slim, slightly decurved bill that is perfect for accessing nectar from flowers. Their tongue has forked tips that lap up nectar. They can retract their tongue quickly, lapping nectar at a rate of up to 13 licks per second.

Blue-tailed hummingbirds have very short legs relative to their body size. Their feet are used only for perching, not walking or hopping. Between their feet are powder down patches used for grooming their plumage. Their wings are long and pointed, beating at about 70 flaps per second on average, allowing them to hover in place or fly forwards, backwards, and upside down.

Range and Habitat

The blue-tailed hummingbird is found from Panama north through Colombia and Venezuela. Its range extends across northern South America, including parts of Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, northern Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. It resides in tropical and subtropical forests, woodlands, parks, and gardens.

This species occurs at elevations from sea level up to 1000 meters. It prefers forests with flowering plants andadjacent open areas such as forest edges, clearings, and parks. Availability of food sources is a key defining factor of their habitat.

Food and Feeding

Like all hummingbirds, the blue-tailed hummingbird has a fast metabolism and must eat frequently throughout the day to maintain its high energy lifestyle. Its diet consists mainly of nectar, tree sap, and small insects and spiders.

This species visits a wide variety of flowering plants, inserting its bill into blossoms to drink nectar. Some favorite nectar sources include shrubs, vines, and epiphytes of the families Fabaceae, Costaceae, Heliconiaceae, Verbenaceae, and Gesneriaceae. The blue-tailed hummingbird uses its slender bill to probe into flowers to lap up nectar with its forked tongue at a licking rate of about 13 licks per second.

Insects and spiders provide essential proteins not found in nectar. The blue-tailed hummingbird may glean small insects from foliage and flowers or snatch them out of the air during flight. It has been observed feeding on mosquitoes, gnats, beetles, ants, wasps, and spiders.

To meet its high metabolic demands, the blue-tailed hummingbird must eat half its weight in sugar every day. Its intake is dominated by nectar, comprising 25-40% sucrose concentration. It feeds in brief periods throughout the day, visiting hundreds or even thousands of flowers daily and consuming more than twice its body weight in nectar each day.


The blue-tailed hummingbird is solitary and territorial. Males establish breeding territories with plenty of flower resources, high perches, and potential nest sites. They perch conspicuously to advertise their territory and chase intruders away with acrobatic flying displays. Most disputes are settled without physical contact, especially with an aerial show of the colorful blue tail feathers.

Courtship displays by males include aerial maneuvers and shuttle flights back and forth in front of the female. If receptive, the female may cooperate by adopting a solicitation posture with her tail and bill pointed upwards. Once paired, the male continues to do courtship flights as he follows the female around her territory.

The blue-tailed hummingbird, like other trochilids, is highly aggressive despite its diminutive size. It frequently engages in aerial battles with intruding hummers over territory and flower possession. Being lightweight and agile fliers, defending a food source or territory is more energy efficient than constantly seeking new ones.


The breeding season of the blue-tailed hummingbird varies across its range but generally aligns with peak flower availability. This ranges from January to July in Panama, February to May in Colombia, and April to August in Ecuador.

Females build a small cup-shaped nest out of plant down, spider webs, and lichen on the upper branch of a tree at heights of 2 to 20 meters. She lines the nest with soft plant fibers. The female alone builds the nest over the course of about 5-10 days while the male perches nearby singing and chasing other birds away.

The female lays two tiny white eggs about 0.5 cm long. She incubates them alone for 15-19 days until they hatch. Once hatched, both parents participate in feeding the chicks regurgitated food. The chicks fledge in about 20-26 days.


Most populations of the blue-tailed hummingbird are year-round residents within their breeding range. Some seasonal elevational movements may occur as birds move to higher elevations during the breeding season then descend during the nonbreeding period. Their movement patterns are not well-studied.


Male blue-tailed hummingbirds have complex vocal displays used for courtship and defending territories. Their primary song is a buzzing trill used to attract females and advertise territory ownership. Males also produce softer chipping notes during interactions with females. At food sources, both sexes emit squeaky call notes. They produce sharp chip alarm calls when disturbed or chased by other hummingbirds.

Conservation Status

The blue-tailed hummingbird has a very large range estimated at 1.3 million square kilometers. Within this range, its population trend appears to be stable. For these reasons, the IUCN Red List classifies this species as Least Concern. However, habitat loss is a potential threat in parts of its range.

Interesting Facts

– The bright blue color of the male’s tail results from light refraction through modified feather structures rather than pigments. Females have white tips to help camouflage on the nest.

– A hummingbird’s wings beat in a figure 8 pattern which allows them to stabilize and maneuver better than a back and forth movement would.

– Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards by rotating their wings rather than just their body.

– The blue-tailed hummingbird’s feet are so weak that it can barely walk. It lives life in flight and must rest on perches.

– This species has one of the largest ranges of any trochilid, occurring across 7 countries in Central and South America.

– Hummingbirds have uniquely constructed feathers containing central spines that produce melodic sounds during flight. Many of their elaborate aerial displays are accompanied by chirps and squeaks.

In summary, the blue-tailed hummingbird is a gorgeous, energetic species adeptly adapted for accessing nectar and engaging in aerial courts