The Fork-tailed Woodnymph Hummingbird (Thalurania furcata) is a small hummingbird found in Central and South America. With its distinctive long, forked tail and vibrant green plumage, this species is one of the most recognizable hummingbirds in its range.
The fork-tailed woodnymph is a tiny bird, measuring only 5-6 cm in length and weighing 2-3 grams. As its name suggests, its most distinctive feature is its long, deeply forked tail, which can measure up to 6 cm. The male has iridescent emerald green upperparts and crown, with a bright metallic green throat. The underparts are white with green sides. The female is similar but has slightly duller plumage overall. Both sexes have a straight black bill.
Distribution and Habitat
This hummingbird has a wide distribution across Central and South America. Its range extends from Panama south through Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and central Brazil. It resides primarily in tropical lowland forests, forest edges, second growth, plantations, parks, and gardens from sea level up to 1200 m elevation.
Food and Feeding
Like all hummingbirds, the fork-tailed woodnymph feeds on flower nectar and tiny insects. It uses its long, extendable tongue to drink nectar while hovering in front of flowers. It also hawks small insects such as mosquitos, gnats, and spiders out of the air. Favorite nectar sources include heliconia, costus, and other tubular flowers. The woodnymph plays an important role as a pollinator for many tropical plant species.
Behavior and Breeding
The fork-tailed woodnymph is a solitary and territorial species. Males defend feeding territories from perches in the sub-canopy, chasing away intruders. Their display consists of hovering in place and singing a thin, high-pitched song. Females build a small cup nest out of plant down and spider webs on the tip of a low branch, usually over a stream. She lays two tiny white eggs and incubates them alone for 15-19 days. The chicks fledge in about 20-26 days.
Widespread and fairly common throughout its large range, the fork-tailed woodnymph is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. However, some localized declines have been noted, particularly where forests are cleared for agriculture and development. The global population is estimated at 5 million individuals. Maintaining intact forests throughout Central and South America will be important for the long-term preservation of this beautiful hummingbird species.
– The fork-tailed woodnymph is the only hummingbird with a long, forked tail. This unique adaptation allows for greater maneuverability and agility in flight.
– To conserve energy, the woodnymph enters torpor at night by lowering its body temperature and metabolism.
– Fork-tailed woodnymphs are promiscuous breeders. Females will mate with multiple males, whose sperm then compete to fertilize her eggs.
– Males perform elaborate dive displays during courtship, plummeting from heights of over 20 meters. This is one of the most dramatic courtship displays in the hummingbird family.
– Hummingbird tongues have tiny fringes that help lap up nectar. When not in use, the tongue rolls up neatly beneath the beak.
– Woodnymphs get most of their water from flower nectar. They don’t need to drink frequently from streams or puddles.
In summary, the fork-tailed woodnymph is a fascinating hummingbird adapted to life in the tropics. With its shimmering plumage and remarkable flying abilities, it is one of the flashiest hummers in Central and South America. Protecting its forest habitat will ensure the continued survival of this unique and captivating species.