Racket-tailed Coquette Hummingbird Species

The Racket-tailed Coquette (Discosura longicaudus) is a small hummingbird found in tropical regions of South America. With its long tail feathers and vibrant colors, this species is one of the most visually striking members of the hummingbird family.


The Racket-tailed Coquette is relatively small for a hummingbird, reaching only 8-10 cm in length. As its name suggests, its most distinctive feature is the male’s extra-long tail feathers that can measure up to around 11 cm. These long central tail feathers have rackets or paddles at the tips, giving the bird its common name. The female’s tail is also long but lacks the decorative rackets.

The male has a bright green head and upperparts that contrast sharply with the black underparts. Depending on the subspecies and lighting conditions, the green patches on the head and back can sometimes appear more bluish. The green upperparts are densely spotted with tiny white dots. The pale gray underparts are also lightly spotted with white. The green tail feathers have white tips. The female is similar but duller overall, with more gray and less vivid green in the plumage.

Both sexes have a straight black bill and whitish feathering at the bend of the wing. The Racket-tailed Coquette’s wings are fairly short and rounded compared to other hummingbirds. The male has bright crimson feet, while the female’s feet are darker gray-brown. Juveniles resemble adult females but with buffer edges to the feathers.

Distribution and Habitat

The Racket-tailed Coquette is found widely across tropical South America east of the Andes. Its range extends from Colombia and Venezuela southwards through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and central Brazil. It occupies a variety of tropical and subtropical habitats including rainforests, secondary growth, plantations, gardens, and even semi-open woodland areas.

This species is found mainly at lower altitudes from near sea level up to around 1000 m elevation. It prefers places with plenty of flowering plants and a somewhat open understory for foraging. The Racket-tailed Coquette is common and widespread across its large range and can adapt readily to altered environments.

Behavior and Ecology

The Racket-tailed Coquette feeds on nectar taken from a variety of tropical flowers, often favoring plants of the order Zingiberales like gingers, heliconias, and bananas. To reach nectar the coquette uses its specialized long, slender bill. It also eats small insects such as flies which provide essential protein. The bird uses its miniature brush-like tongue to lap up nectar while hovering in front of flowers.

Agile and acrobatic, the Racket-tailed Coquette hovers effortlessly as it probes flowers. It can fly sideways or backwards and abruptly change direction, allowing it to efficiently exploit floral resources. Males are aggressively territorial and perform elaborate aerial displays to ward off intruders. They hover in place facing an opponent while fanning their colorful tail and loudly vocalizing.

The breeding season varies across the range, typically coinciding with peak flower availability. Females build a small cup nest out of plant down and fibers, often on a low horizontal branch or tree fork. They lay two tiny white eggs and incubate them alone for 15-19 days until hatching. Chicks fledge after about 20-26 days in the nest.

Conservation Status

With its broad distribution and substantial population, the Racket-tailed Coquette is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss is a localized threat, but the species persists well in modified environments. Racket-tailed Coquettes readily visit feeders, making them popular with birdwatchers. This adventurous little hummingbird continues to flourish across tropical South America.

Fun Facts

– The male’s tail feathers can be shed and regrown each year after breeding. The long plumes likely evolved through sexual selection, with females preferring more ornate tails.

– “Coquette” refers to flirtatious females who incite males to chase them during courtship.

– A hummingbird’s wings beat up to 80 times per second and they can fly upside down! The Racket-tail is no exception with its speedy, acrobatic flight.

– These hummingbirds get most of their sugar from nectar, but also hawking small insects for extra protein. Their long curved bills are perfectly adapted for nectar-feeding.

– Males perform elaborate courtship displays, zipping back and forth to show off their colorful plumage and distinctive tail rackets.

In summary, the Racket-tailed Coquette is a charismatic tropical hummingbird renowned for its long ornamental tail feathers. Though small, it leads a fast-paced life zipping among flowers and chasing off rivals from its feeding territories. This distinctive species thrives across its South American range, bringing vibrant flashes of color to rainforests and gardens alike. With its speedy flight, fanciful plumes, and energetic disposition, the Racket-tailed Coquette shows off the captivating qualities that make hummingbirds so enchanting.