Gould’s Inca Hummingbird Species

High in the Andean mountains of South America lives one of the most spectacularly colored hummingbirds in the world – the Gould’s inca (Coeligena inca). This tiny bird, measuring only 8-9 centimeters in length, is named after the famous 19th century British ornithologist and bird artist John Gould. With its vibrant, iridescent plumage in hues of metallic turquoise, emerald green and sapphire blue, offset by a bright white breast band and collar, the Gould’s inca truly dazzles the eye.

There are three recognized subspecies of the Gould’s inca hummingbird, each occupying a distinct geographical range along the Andes Mountains:

Coeligena inca inca – Found in central Peru
Coeligena inca conradii – Occurs in northern Peru and southern Ecuador
Coeligena inca violiferens – Lives in Bolivia

All three subspecies exhibit the same vibrant plumage and only differ slightly in size, with C.i. violiferens being the largest and C.i. inca the smallest. Their habitat consists of cloud forest and elfin forest at elevations between 10,000-15,000 feet. Here they feed on nectar from flowering plants such as fuchsias, red-hot pokers, and Bomarea.

Courtship and Breeding

The breeding season for Gould’s inca hummingbirds coincides with the rainy season in their South American habitat, generally from September to April. The male initiates courtship by performing aerial displays, flying in wide U-shaped or circular patterns to attract the attention of watching females. If interested, the female may respond with her own display flight.

Once paired, the female builds a tiny cup-shaped nest out of plant fibers, spider webs and lichen on a low branch or in a tree crevice. She lays just two tiny white eggs, which she incubates alone for about 16-19 days. The chicks are fed regurgitated nectar and insects by the female and fledge at 22-26 days old. Interestingly, the female may produce a second or even third clutch in a single breeding season.

Conservation Status

Gould’s inca hummingbird has a relatively widespread distribution across the Andean highlands and foothills. However, some local populations may be threatened by habitat loss from logging and conversion of cloud forest to agriculture. The Bolivian subspecies C.i. violiferens has the most restricted range and is consequently of greater conservation concern. Overall however, the Gould’s inca is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

Appreciating These Jewels of the Andes

For birders and nature enthusiasts visiting South America, seeing a Gould’s inca hummingbird is a sparkling jewel of an experience. Some prime locations to observe these regal beauties include:

– Machu Picchu Sanctuary in Peru
– Mindo cloud forest in Ecuador
– Coroico and the Yungas Road in Bolivia

The dazzling plumage of Gould’s inca hummingbirds almost appears too flamboyant to be real. Yet these delicate birds survive the thin air, cold temperatures and rugged terrain of the high Andes. While feeding, they alternate rapid wing beats with short periods of hovering in mid-air as they dip their slender bills into nectar-filled blossoms. The vibrant colors flashing in the mountain sunlight make them living gems of the Andean cloud forests. For nature lovers and birders, a chance to see one of these beauties is a special privilege. The unique and colorful Gould’s inca hummingbird epitomizes the fantastic biodiversity found across South America.