Swallow-tailed Hummingbird Species

The Swallow-tailed Hummingbird (Eupetomena macroura) is a fascinating and beautiful species of hummingbird found in certain parts of Central and South America. With its long, forked tail and vibrant, iridescent coloring, it stands out vividly among its relatives in the hummingbird family. In this article, we’ll explore the key features of this species, its range and habitat, feeding behaviors, breeding and reproduction, conservation status, and some notable facts about this captivating bird.

Physical Description

The most immediately striking feature of the swallow-tailed hummingbird is its long, deeply forked tail. The two elongated tail feathers give the bird a distinctive silhouette. In flight, the tail may appear as wide or even wider than the bird’s actual body length. When perched, the tail angles out prominently behind the body.

Males of the species have particularly spectacular, glossy plumage coloring. The head and throat are a shining emerald green. The back and upperparts glow with a bronzy-green iridescence. The underparts are snowy white. The forked tail feathers are mostly rufous-colored with some green at the base. Females are slightly duller in coloration, with more white underside feathers and less vibrant throat coloring. Juveniles resemble adult females but with even fewer bright throat feathers.

These hummingbirds have slender, curved bills adapted for accessing nectar from flowers. Their small feet are only used for perching, not walking or hopping. Overall body length ranges from 7-9.5 cm, with about half of that length coming from the long tail. Body mass is typically between 5-8 grams.

Range and Habitat

The swallow-tailed hummingbird occupies a range stretching from Mexico through parts of Central America to as far south as Peru and Bolivia. In Central America, it overlaps in some areas with its close relative, the scissor-tailed hummingbird. It resides mainly in lower elevation tropical and subtropical forests, forest edges, and adjacent clearings and scrublands.

This species seems to prefer drier, more open woodland areas compared to dense, wet rainforests. It particularly favors areas with an abundance of flowering plants and trees. Range expansion appears limited by the availability of suitable habitat. Due to some localized habitat loss, its numbers may be declining in certain parts of Central America.

Feeding Behavior

Like all hummingbirds, the swallow-tailed hummingbird sustains itself on nectar from flowers and flowering trees. Its preferred food sources include shrubs and small trees in the pea family, as well as a variety of tropical flowering plants such as Heliconia, ginger, and banana. The long, specialized bill allows the bird to delve deep into exotic blooms like passionflowers to extract the energy-rich nectar inside.

The swallow-tailed hummingbird uses its lightning quick reflexes and aerobatic maneuverability to visit flower after flower in quick succession. It hovers in place and extends its bill into each blossom, using its protracted, straw-like tongue to lap up nectar. The wings beat at an estimated 70 times per second during forward flight. This intense exertion requires the hummingbird to consume up to twice its body weight in nectar each day!

To fuel its extreme energy expenditures, the swallow-tailed hummingbird supplements its diet with small insects like spiders, flies, bee