Green-bearded Helmetcrest Hummingbird Species

The green-bearded helmetcrest is a medium-sized hummingbird found exclusively in Colombia and Ecuador. Its scientific name is Oxypogon guerinii. This unique bird gets its name from the brilliant emerald green “beard” found on the throat of the adult male.

Description

Adult males of this species are unmistakable with their bright green throat, blue crown, and white-tipped tail. The emerald beard shining in the sunlight is a magnificent sight. Females and juveniles lack the full green beard, having just a small patch of green feathers on the throat. The females have an overall greenish back and whitish underside. Both sexes have a slightly decurved black bill and reddish legs.

This helmetcrest grows to about 9-10 cm in length and weighs 5-7 grams. Their wingspan is approximately 5 inches across. The streamlined body and long wings allow these agile hummers to hover and dart swiftly between flowers.

Habitat and Range

The green-bearded helmetcrest inhabits montane cloud forests and elfin forests at elevations between 8200-11500 ft. They are endemic to a small region of the Andes Mountains in Colombia and Ecuador. Their range extends from southwestern Colombia to northern Ecuador.

These high elevation tropical forests have cool, moist climates with frequent mist and rain. Abundant epiphytes and mosses cover the trees and help maintain humidity. The helmetcrests are found flitting through the forest understory visiting favorite blossoms. They prefer areas with many flowering plants and a dense vegetation structure.

Diet

This species feeds on nectar from flowering plants using their long, specialized tongue to reach inside blossoms. Favored plants include species from the following genera: Bomarea, Cavendishia, Drymonia, and Gaiadendron. They supplement their diet with small insects like flies which provide protein. The helmetcrests use their sight and ability to hover in place to hunt down tiny insects.

Reproduction

The breeding season for green-bearded helmetcrests lasts from March to June. Males perform elaborate courtship displays, flying in u-shaped patterns to impress females. Once paired, the female builds a delicate cup-shaped nest out of plant fibers and spider webs. It is attached to a vertical trunk or branch, often over a stream.

She lays just two tiny white eggs. Both parents take turns carefully incubating the eggs for about 16-19 days. Once hatched, the nestlings are fed regurgitated food by both mother and father. The young fledge at approximately 20-23 days old.

Threats and Conservation

This species is currently classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss from deforestation is the biggest threat. Climate change also endangers the sensitive cloud forest ecosystems where they live. As few as 2500 individuals are estimated to remain.

Conservation efforts are aimed at protecting key forest habitat from further destruction. Educating local communities about the importance of preservation helps reduce habitat degradation. Bird-friendly coffee farms provide sanctuary. Continued monitoring of populations is needed to track the stability of this rare hummingbird.

Fun Facts

– The green beard results from light refracting through feather structures, not pigmentation.

– Males gather together in communal leks to perform courtship displays.

– The genus name Oxypogon means “bearded jaw”.

– These hummingbirds have incredibly fast metabolisms and must feed frequently.

– They use a technique called “trap-lining” to systematically visit favored flower clusters.

– Flapping their wings up to 70 times per second allows them to precisely hover.

The dazzling green-bearded helmetcrest remains mysterious to science, with much still to learn about this threatened species. Conserving habitat and studying their ecology will give us a better understanding of how to secure their future in the northern Andes. With a little luck and continued effort, these delightful hummingbirds will continue to glisten over mountain streams feeding on forest flowers.