The plain-bellied emerald (Amazilia leucogaster) is a species of hummingbird found in tropical regions of Central and South America. With its vibrant green plumage and long, curved bill, this species is one of the most striking and recognizable hummingbirds in its range. In this article, we will explore the identification, distribution, habitat, diet, behavior, reproduction, and conservation status of this beautiful bird.
The plain-bellied emerald can be identified by its medium size, measuring 3.5-4 inches (9-10 cm) in length. The male has unmistakable bright green upperparts and crown, with a blue tail and belly. The female is similar, but has greener underparts. Both sexes have a long straight black bill and white posterior feathers. The plain-bellied emerald resembles other Amazilia hummingbirds, but can be distinguished by its plain green belly and lack of any rufous coloring on the tail.
Distribution and Habitat
This species has a broad distribution across Central and South America. Its range extends from southern Mexico through Panama, and south to Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina. Across this region, the plain-bellied emerald occupies a variety of semi-open habitats, including forest edges, second growth, plantations, gardens, and parks. It tends to prefer drier areas rather than wet, dense rainforest. This hummingbird is generally not migratory, but some populations may make seasonal movements in response to flower availability.
Like all hummingbirds, the plain-bellied emerald feeds on floral nectar, visiting a variety of bright tubular flowers such as salvias, lantana, fuchsia, and others. It uses its specialized long bill and tongue to lap up nectar while hovering at flowers. This species also consumes small insects such as flies,spiders, aphids for essential amino acids and nutrients. The plain-bellied emerald may trap insects in flight or pick them off vegetation. It will defend flowering patches in its territory from other hummingbirds.
The plain-bellied emerald is a solitary and territorial species, patrolling and aggressively defending nectar sources in its breeding and feeding territory. Males perform elaborate aerial courtship displays to attract females, diving and rising in U-shaped patterns. Outside of the breeding season, these hummingbirds may gather at stands of flowers in loose groups with limited aggression. They perch more frequently than many other hummingbird species. Their call is a high-pitched thin tweeting.
Breeding occurs in the spring in Mexico and the wet season further south. Males court females with aerial displays over their breeding territory before mating. The female plain-bellied emerald builds a small cup nest out of soft plant down and spider webs on a low tree branch, often overhanging water. She lays 2 tiny white eggs and incubates them for about 15-19 days. The chicks hatch with their eyes sealed shut and barely visible down. They are fed regurgitated insects and nectar by the female and fledge at 20-26 days old. Plain-bellied emerald females may raise 2-3 broods per season.
The plain-bellied emerald is evaluating as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. It has a very large range and the population is generally stable, estimated at over 5 million. Although some localized declines have occurred, particularly in Central America, this common species persists across a wide distribution. As long as suitable habitat remains, consisting of appropriate flowers, nest sites, and insect prey, the plain-bellied emerald should continue thriving. Providing gardens with native plants that offer nectar sources may help support these lovely hummingbirds. With its vibrant beauty and energetic flight, the plain-bellied emerald remains a favorite among bird enthusiasts across its range.
In summary, the plain-bellied emerald is a stunning green hummingbird adorned with a bright blue belly and tail. This species flourishes in tropical semi-open habitats from Mexico to Argentina where it feeds on nectar and small insects. Males perform spectacular courtship displays before breeding. Females build a delicate cup nest and raise multiple broods. The plain-bellied emerald is currently stable in population and classified as Least Concern, though habitat loss in some regions has caused local declines. By appreciating the natural history and conservation needs of species like the plain-bellied emerald, we can better protect the incredible biodiversity of hummingbirds across the Americas.