The shining-green hummingbird is a small, vibrantly colored hummingbird native to the forests of Ecuador and Peru. With its emerald green back and crown, brilliant turquoise gorget, and bold white tail feathers, this aptly named hummingbird is one of the most striking members of its family.
The shining-green hummingbird measures only 8-9 cm in length and weighs around 5 grams, making it one of the smallest hummingbird species. As its name suggests, the upperparts and crown of the shining-green hummingbird are a bright metallic emerald green. The underparts are white, and the tail is white with black central rectrices. The most striking feature of the shining-green hummingbird is its gorget, which flashes brilliant turquoise and violet in the sunlight. The long black bill is slightly decurved. Females lack the colorful gorget and are duller overall, with grayish-green upperparts and whitish underparts with green spotting on the throat. Juveniles resemble adult females.
Habitat and Distribution
The shining-green hummingbird is endemic to humid foothill and lower montane forests on the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Andes. Its elevation range extends from 600-1500 m above sea level. It prefers areas with flowering plants and vine-tangled vegetation near streams and in clearings, especially where its favored food plants grow. Although patchily distributed, it can locally be common within its specialized range and habitat.
Like all hummingbirds, the shining-green hummingbird subsists mainly on nectar, which it collects with its long, extendable tongue. It favors the nectar of certain plants such as fuchsia and gesneriad flowers. To meet its high metabolic needs, the shining-green hummingbird must consume approximately half its body weight in nectar each day. It supplements its diet with small insects like gnats, fruit flies, and spiders. The shining-green hummingbird sometimes steals insects caught in spider webs. It is an agile, acrobatic flier, capable of the sustained hovering necessary to collect nectar from flowers.
Behavior and Life Cycle
The shining-green hummingbird is solitary and territorial. Males establish breeding territories with plentiful flower resources, which they aggressively defend from intruders. Their iridescent throat feathers are used for display during courtship and territorial disputes. Courtship consists of aerial displays by the male as he repeatedly dives and ascends in front of the female. Once paired, the female alone is responsible for building the tiny cup-shaped nest out of plant down, spider webs, and lichens bonded with silk from spider or caterpillar nests. She lays two pea-sized white eggs and incubates them for 15-19 days. The chicks hatch with closed eyes and almost no feathers but develop quickly on the female’s highly nutritious liquid diet of regurgitated nectar and insects. They fledge at 18-22 days old.
The shining-green hummingbird has a relatively small range and specialized habitat preferences. Its population trend is thought to be decreasing, although survey data is limited. BirdLife International categorizes its conservation status as near threatened. The major threats are likely habitat loss due to agricultural expansion, urbanization, and timber extraction. Portions of its range are protected in reserves such as Podocarpus National Park (Ecuador) and Yanachaga–Chemillén National Park (Peru). Ongoing efforts to prevent deforestation and maintain sufficient suitable habitat will be important for the continued survival of the shining-green hummingbird. More extensive surveys and population monitoring are needed to fully assess its status.
Significance to Humans
Hummingbirds hold cultural significance for many indigenous Andean peoples, often appearing in folklore, rituals, or designs. The shining-green hummingbird itself does not seem to be particularly featured, but it may play a role in broader Andean hummingbird symbolism involving luck, energy, joy, and more. Its radiant coloration and agility enchant ecotourists lucky enough to encounter this species in the wild, as hummingbirds around the world commonly do. Beyond tourism revenue and environmental education, however, the shining-green hummingbird does not provide direct economic benefits to humans. Its true value lies in its inherent worth as a unique component of Andean biodiversity. Protecting it contributes to broader conservation aims.
Outlook for the Species
The shining-green hummingbird’s conservation status is currently stable but concerning trends warrant more precautionary management of its vulnerable habitat. Expanding protected areas and forest corridors in its narrow endemic range will be key. Strict enforcement against illegal logging and encroachment must continue. With sufficient intact forest habitat maintained, the shining-green hummingbird can persist as a jewel of the cloud forests, its dazzling colors and energetic flight a sight to behold for generations to come. The fragile beauty it embodies is reason enough to ensure this species is never lost.