Rufous-crested Coquette Hummingbird Species

The Rufous-crested coquette (Lophornis delattrei) is a small hummingbird found in eastern and southeastern Brazil. With its distinctive bright orange crest and vibrant green colors, this species is considered one of the most beautiful hummingbirds in the world.


The Rufous-crested coquette is a medium-sized hummingbird that measures 8-9 cm in length and weighs around 3-4 grams. Like other coquettes, the species gets its name from the elaborate and flamboyant crest on the top of the male’s head. The brilliant orange crest stands out dramatically against the bright metallic green on the rest of the bird’s head and upperparts. The underparts are grayish white with green sides. The long bill is black, slightly decurved, and adapted for accessing nectar from flowers.

Females lack the ornate crest and are generally duller in coloration, with green upperparts, gray underparts, and white tips on the tail feathers. Juveniles resemble adult females. This marked sexual dimorphism is common among hummingbird species.

Distribution and Habitat

The Rufous-crested coquette is endemic to Brazil, found primarily along the eastern and southeastern Atlantic coast. Its range extends from the state of Rio Grande do Norte south to Rio de Janeiro.

This species inhabits the canopy and edges of humid lowland and montane tropical forests up to 1100 meters in elevation. It favors forests with abundant epiphytes and wooded gardens. It is often found in second growth forests and wooded slopes with flowers.

Diet and Feeding

Like all hummingbirds, the Rufous-crested coquette feeds on nectar obtained from a variety of brightly colored, tubular flowers. Some of the favorite nectar sources include shrubs such as hamelia, poinsettia, malvaviscus, and various plants in the following families: Bromeliaceae, Gesneriaceae, Heliconiaceae, and Rubiaceae.

This agile flyer uses its specialized long bill to access nectar at the base of long tubular flowers. The bill allows the bird to reach nectar not accessible to other pollinators. The tongue is able to lap up nectar at a rate of 13 licks per second.

While feeding on nectar provides the majority of energy, the coquette also consumes small insects such as spiders to obtain protein, minerals, and nutrients. It catches insects in flight or gleans them from foliage in a method called “hover-gleaning.”

Unique Adaptations

The Rufous-crested coquette exhibits several fascinating anatomical and physiological adaptations that allow it to thrive as a nectar-feeding specialist:

– Skeletal system – Lightweight, fragile bones; short, articulated wing bones enable the high-speed wing beats required for sustained hovering flight.

– Musculature – Proportionately large pectoral muscles power the wings.

– Metabolism – High metabolic rate; a rapid heart rate of up to 1200 beats per minute while in flight. Body temperature of 40 ̊C (104 ̊F) allows the bird to thermoregulate in cool conditions.

– Tongue – Slender, extensible tongue with tubular tip for drinking nectar; tongue licks at high speeds to lap up nectar.

– Eyes – Unique tubular eyes with excellent visual acuity and color vision adapted for discerning flowers.

– Bill – Specialized long, slender, decurved bill perfectly shaped for probing into tubular corolla of nectar-producing flowers.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The breeding season of the Rufous-crested coquette varies across its range, typically coinciding with periods of abundant blossoming flowers from January to August. Courtship displays involve aerial chases and the male hovering in front of the female with his bright crest flared.

The female builds a delicate cup-shaped nest out of plant down and fibers attached to a branch, usually 2-5 meters above ground. She incubates the two tiny white eggs for 15-19 days. The chicks hatch with closed eyes and little to no down. Both parents feed the chicks with nectar and insects. The young fledge at about 18-26 days after hatching.

Conservation Status

The Rufous-crested coquette has a wide distribution and large population, estimated globally at 10,000 to 100,000 individuals. While population trends have not been quantified, the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for being considered threatened. Due to its large range and stable population, the IUCN Red List classifies this species as Least Concern.

However, localized habitat loss from deforestation presents a major threat, especially for the Atlantic Forest population. As with many Neotropical hummingbirds, egg collecting and illegal trapping for the pet trade also pose conservation risks. Maintaining protected forest areas and banning unlawful trade are important for the continued survival of this brilliant species.

Significance to Ecosystems and Humans

As specialized nectar feeders, Rufous-crested coquettes play a vital ecological role as pollinators of many flowering plants in the forests they inhabit. They transfer pollen between blossoms as they forage, allowing plants to reproduce. Their extinction would remove an important pollinator and alter plant communities.

The spectacular beauty of this tiny bird also makes it valued by humans. Birdwatchers seek glimpses of its dazzling orange crest and emerald plumage. As charismatic members of Brazil’s avifauna, Rufous-crested coquettes have cultural significance and draw ecotourists. They inspire artwork and spark interest in rainforest conservation.

With dedicated habitat protection and responsible ecotourism practices, this brilliant pollinator and iconic rainforest gem can continue to thrive in its Brazilian homeland for generations to come. The fate of rare species like the Rufous-crested coquette rests in human hands, reminding us of the profound duty we have as stewards of the world’s fragile biodiversity.