The Perija starfrontlet (Coeligena orina) is a species of hummingbird found only in the Perijá Mountains of Colombia and Venezuela. With a total population estimated at only 1200-1500 individuals, this striking hummingbird is considered endangered.
The Perija starfrontlet is a small hummingbird, measuring only about 10-11 cm in length. The male has metallic turquoise upperparts and a glittering violet-blue throat. The underparts are white with green flanks. The female is similar but has bronze-green upperparts and lacks the bright blue throat, instead having speckled white underparts. The bill of both sexes is long, straight and black.
The species gets its name from the colorful “star” pattern on the throat of the male. The star shape is formed by the violet-blue throat feathers being elongated and narrowed at the tip. When perched, the starfrontlet frequently fans and exposes this patch of iridescent feathers, possibly to attract females.
Range and Habitat
The Perija starfrontlet is endemic to the Perijá Mountains located on the border between northeastern Colombia and western Venezuela. Its small global range covers only about 500 square km.
This hummingbird inhabits cloud forest and elfin forest at elevations of 1800-3600 meters. It prefers areas with flowering plants and thick vegetation like thickets and forest edges. Part of its habitat lies within Sierra de Perijá National Park.
Like all hummingbirds, the Perija starfrontlet feeds on nectar from flowers using its long extendable tongue. It takes nectar from typical high-altitude flowering plants including shrubs in the Ericaceae family and epiphyte plants of the bromeliad family. The starfrontlet uses its straight bill to reach into tubular corolla flowers.
The hummingbird also feeds on small insects, which provide essential amino acids. It may hawk flying insects as well as glean them from leaves and bark.
Male Perija starfrontlets are territorial and perform flight displays to defend their feeding territories and to court females. They fly in U-shaped or oval display routes, with banking turns across their territory. At the bottom of the display route, they may perch and spread their tail feathers while fanning their colorful throat patch.
Females build a small cup-shaped nest out of plant fibers and spider webs on a branch or in a tree fork 2-5 meters above ground. They lay two tiny white eggs and incubate them for 15-19 days. The female cares for the young after they hatch, feeding them with regurgitated food. The young fledge in about 20-26 days.
Threats and Conservation
The Perija starfrontlet has a very small global population and range, making it vulnerable to extinction. Habitat loss from land clearing for agriculture, cattle grazing and mining operations represents the greatest threat. Climate change may also impact its cloud forest habitat. The species is protected in Sierra de Perijá National Park, but more habitat conservation is needed.
Fortunately, recent surveys have found the Perija starfrontlet in suitable habitat across a wider elevational range and geographic distribution than previously thought. This suggests the population is likely larger than the 1200-1500 estimate. But updated population studies are needed.
To protect this endangered species, conservation efforts should focus on preserving intact forest habitat in its specialized high-elevation range. Monitoring climate impacts and maintaining habitat connectivity will also be important. Expanding protected areas and working with local communities on sustainable land use practices can help ensure the beautiful and unique Perija starfrontlet continues to dazzle future generations.