Violet-capped Woodnymph Hummingbird Species

The violet-capped woodnymph (Thalurania glaucopis) is a small hummingbird found in tropical regions of South America. With its vibrant violet cap, green back, and white underparts, it is one of the most colorful and stunning hummingbirds in the world. In this article, we’ll explore the identification, diet, habitat, behavior, breeding, conservation status, and interesting facts about this beautiful bird.


The violet-capped woodnymph is relatively easy to identify thanks to the male’s brilliant violet cap which covers the entire crown. The cap may appear more blue or more violet-purple depending on the lighting conditions. Females lack the cap and instead have green crowns. Both sexes have green upperparts and tail, a white throat, and whitish underparts which can sometimes appear slightly buffy on the sides and flanks. The belly is white. The bill is long, straight, and black. The legs and feet are also black. Juveniles resemble adult females but may have some scattered iridescent feathers on the crown.

These hummingbirds reach about 9-10 centimeters in length and 4-6 grams in weight, similar in size to a calliope hummingbird. Their long, thin bill is an adaptation for reaching nectar at the base of long tubular flowers. In flight, the violet-capped woodnymph’s wings beat at an extremely fast 50-70 beats per second. This rapid wing movement allows them to precisely hover in place as they feed on flowers. The wings make a distinctive high-pitched buzzing sound. The species is sometimes grouped along with other similar woodnymphs in the genus Thalurania.


Like all hummingbirds, the violet-capped woodnymph feeds on flower nectar and tiny insects. Their long, specialized tongue allows them to lap up nectar deep within flowers. Some favorite nectar sources include heliconia and ginger flowers, as well as flowering trees and vines. The bill is also used to snatch small insects such as spiders, mosquitoes, and aphids out of the air. Insects provide essential proteins and nutrients that are not present in nectar.


The violet-capped woodnymph is found across northern South America in humid tropical forests, second growth, plantations, and gardens. Its range includes eastern Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and the Amazon Basin region of Brazil. Within its broad habitat, it seems to prefer areas with plenty of flowering plants and some shrubby vegetation. It is recorded up to elevations of 1300 meters in the Andes Mountains.


This active, quick-moving hummingbird spends most of its time feeding. It aggressively guards flowering plants and shrubs, chasing away other birds. When not feeding, it perches on small exposed branches. The violet-capped woodnymph is solitary and does not form flocks. The species may make local movements to take advantage of newly blooming nectar sources. But in general it is not considered migratory, instead remaining resident year-round in tropical forests.

Males are very territorial and use their brilliant caps to advertise and defend their territories. They perform courtship displays for females by flying in repeated arcs above the forest canopy. Surprisingly long chases between competing males are also common as they fiercely guard resources. Though small, the violet-capped woodnymph is known for being feisty and aggressive, vigorously fending off intruders from feeders or flowers.


The breeding season of the violet-capped woodnymph varies across its wide range, tracking the blooming of flowers. Breeding generally takes place during the wet season from May to August in Colombia, and from January to July in southwestern Amazonia. To attract a female, the male flies back and forth performing aerial courtship displays.

Once paired, the female builds a small cup nest out of plant fibers, spider webs, moss, and lichen. It is attached to a vertical branch, tree fern, or other structure. She lays just two tiny white eggs. Incubation lasts 15-19 days until the altricial chicks hatch. The female alone cares for the chicks, sheltering them under her body at night. For their first few days, she feeds them with regurgitated food. The chicks fledge at approximately 20-26 days old. Not much else is known about the nesting habits of this species. Pairs may raise multiple broods during a single breeding season.

Conservation Status

The violet-capped woodnymph is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Its large range covers over 1.5 million square kilometers. Although population numbers have not been quantified, the species is described as common in most of its range. However, some localized declines have occurred, particularly in Colombia. These are attributed to high rates of forest loss and habitat degradation. Across its range, protection of primary tropical wet forests is an important conservation priority for this and many other Neotropical bird species. Eco-tourism may also help provide an incentive to protect the habitats of this beautiful and sought-after hummingbird.

Interesting Facts

– The violet cap on the male violet-capped woodnymph is iridescent. As light hits the feathers, it brings out different shades of color, from bright violet to deep blue. The structure of the feathers causes this iridescent, shifting effect.

– Like all hummingbirds, this species can fly forwards, backwards, sideways, straight up and down, and even upside down! The adjustment of their specialized wing feathers allows for this remarkable maneuverability.

– The violet-capped woodnymph has a very fast metabolism and must feed frequently to meet its high energy needs. Its heart rate can reach up to 1,260 beats per minute.

– Hummingbirds have surprisingly aggressive territorial behaviors. Males will fiercely chase each other, performing elaborate aerial dive displays to drive intruders away.

– Because of their small size, hummingbirds are vulnerable to predators such as snakes, bats, and lizards. To avoid being eaten, they have excellent vision and reaction times to detect threats.

– Violet-capped woodnymphs use spider silk to weave their tiny cup nests. They cleverly gather the sticky silk from orb weaver spider webs to help bind the nest materials together.

– The male’s brilliant coloration does not come from pigments, but is instead produced through iridescent refraction of light off the feather surfaces. This means the color will shift and vary depending on how the light hits the feathers.

– Woodnymphs get their name from their frequent association with forested habitats. They also share some physical resemblances to mythological wood nymphs.

In Summary

With its vivid violet cap, hovering flight, and aggressive territoriality, the aptly named violet-capped woodnymph is one of South America’s most striking hummingbird species. While adapted to thrive in tropical forests, it also readily visits gardens and inhabits second growth habitats. Though not considered threatened, habitat loss remains a concern for the conservation of this and many other Neotropical birds. The violet-capped woodnymph serves as a charismatic ambassador for birdlife across its range in Panama, Colombia, and the Amazon. Whether a fleeting glimpse in the forest, or a jewel-like visitor to a backyard feeder, a sighting of this species is sure to impress any observer with an appreciation for natural wonders.