The Green-fronted Hummingbird (Amazilia viridifrons) is a small hummingbird native to the tropical regions of Central and South America. With an average body length of 8-9 cm and weight of 3-4 g, it is a tiny bird even by hummingbird standards. Despite its diminutive size, the green-fronted hummingbird has a number of distinctive features that make it stand out.
As its name suggests, the most prominent identifying feature of the green-fronted hummingbird is the bright emerald green patch on its forehead and crown. The rest of the head is a glittering golden-green. The back and tail coverts are bronzy-green, while the tail is rufous-chestnut with darker central feathers. The underparts are mostly grayish white with a green central streak starting at the throat. The sexes are alike in plumage. Juveniles have buffy edges to the green crown feathers and rufous margins on the tail.
The green-fronted hummingbird inhabits tropical lowland forests, second growth, forest edges, plantations and gardens from sea level up to 1200 m elevation. It has a wide distribution across Central America from southern Mexico to Panama, and in South America from Colombia and Venezuela south to Peru and central Brazil.
This species can most easily be found visiting nectar-rich flowering plants and shrubs, probing the blossoms with its long slender bill. Favorite food plants include species from the genera Costus, Heliconia, Etlingera, and others. The green-fronted hummingbird aggressively defends its nectar territories from intrusions by other hummingbirds or perching birds. It perches quite prominently between feeding bouts.
One of the most remarkable things about hummingbirds is their unique hovering flight ability. The green-fronted hummingbird can beat its wings up to 15 times per second, allowing it to fly in any direction including upside down. This maneuverability lets it efficiently access flower blossoms while hovering in mid-air. The wings make a high-pitched buzzing or humming sound as they slice so rapidly through the air, giving rise to the name “hummingbird”.
During the breeding season, males perform elaborate courtship displays to attract females. They fly in U-shaped or circular patterns, reaching speeds of nearly 100 body lengths per second while diving and rising in a path just a few meters wide. At the bottom of each dive, the outer tail feathers are splayed and produce a distinctive popping or snapping sound as air rushes through the tail. Females build a small cup nest out of plant down, lichen and spider webs on a thin tree branch. Two tiny white eggs are laid, and the female alone incubates them for 15-19 days until hatching. Chicks fledge in about 20-26 days.
Abundant and widespread in Central and South America, the green-fronted hummingbird is evaluated as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN. However, habitat loss in some areas due to deforestation and conversion to agricultural land may negatively impact populations locally. Providing flowering gardens with suitable nectar plants can help attract and support these energetic little pollinators. When visiting forested areas, watching for a small emerald and rufous blur zooming from flower to flower may reveal this beautiful hummingbird species.
The green-fronted hummingbird’s specialized adaptations like hover-feeding, rapid metabolic rate to power flight, and bold iridescent plumage for attracting mates provide a fascinating glimpse into the diversity of avian life. Though small, this diminutive bird plays an important role in rainforest ecosystems as an agent of pollination for many plant species that rely on birds. With care and habitat conservation, this jewel-like creature will continue to brighten tropical forests with its dazzling colors and energetic antics.