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10 Fascinating Facts about the Venezuelan Sylph

The Venezuelan Sylph: A Bird of Beauty and Grace

When it comes to stunning bird species, the Venezuelan Sylph (Aglaiocercus berlepschi) is one that definitely stands out. Its bright, iridescent plumage, long tail feathers, and striking bill make it a magnificent sight to behold.

In this article, we will delve into the identification, plumages, and molts of this captivating bird species.


Field Identification

The Venezuelan Sylph is a medium-sized bird that measures around 10 centimeters in length. These birds are sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females have different physical characteristics.

Males have a bright green back, a violet-blue head, and a distinctive long tail that extends beyond their body by up to seven centimeters. Their bill is long, straight, and black.

Females are less showy, with a green back and a greyish-white underbelly, but still flaunt a noticeable long tail and bill.

Similar Species

The Venezuelan Sylph can easily be mistaken for other bird species, such as the Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii) and the Violet-capped Hummingbird (Goldmania violiceps). However, there are key differences that can help birdwatchers distinguish them from each other.

The Long-tailed Sylph has more blue in its plumage and its bill is shorter and slightly curved. The Violet-capped Hummingbird, on the other hand, has a shorter tail and less iridescence on its plumage.


The Venezuelan Sylph has two types of plumage: breeding plumage and non-breeding plumage. During the breeding season, which typically starts from November and lasts until June, males display their bright green and violet-blue plumage to attract females.

Females also change their plumage from dull greyish-white to more vibrant green during breeding season. During the non-breeding season, both males and females change their plumage to a duller green color for better camouflage.


Molting is an important process for birds as it helps them replace old and worn-out feathers, allowing them to maintain healthy and efficient flight. The Venezuelan Sylph typically molts once a year, after the breeding season.

During molting, both males and females lose their bright colors and their plumage appears dull and ragged. After the molting process is complete, their vibrant colors are restored, ready for the next breeding season.



The Venezuelan Sylph is a visually striking bird species that is sure to capture the attention of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. By understanding their key identification features and the process of their plumages and molts, bird lovers can gain a deeper appreciation for these captivating creatures.

Whether enjoying watching their aerial displays or admiring their iridescent plumage, the Venezuelan Sylph is a true avian wonder that deserves all the admiration it receives. The Historical Evolution of Venezuelan Sylph: A Look at Its Systematics,

Geographic Variation, and

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Venezuelan Sylph (Aglaiocercus berlepschi) holds a fasciation for bird enthusiasts and researchers alike.

This bird species belongs to the family Trochilidae and is native to the Andean cloud forests of Colombia and Venezuela, which are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. The species systematics, geographic variation, subspecies, and related species have undergone significant changes over the years.

Additionally, its distributional patterns have been greatly impacted by natural and human-induced factors. This article delves into these topics in greater depth.

Systematics History

The classification and systematics of the Venezuelan Sylph have undergone numerous changes over the years. This primarily stems from the challenge of discerning this species from rather similar-looking species.

Aglaiocercus berlepschi was formally described by Ernst Hartert in 1901 and named after Carl Eduard Adolph Gerstaecker’s wife, Aglaia Berlepsch. In the 20th century, the discovery of similar-looking species led to the Venezuelan Sylph being considered part of the Long-tailed Sylph complex, which comprises seven species, including A.

kingii, A. berlepschi.

Geographic Variation

Geographic variation in the Venezuelan Sylph has been reported across its range, and these differences have been the main criterion for distinguishing various subspecies. The Venezuelan Sylph is distributed in the Andean forests of Venezuela and Colombia, and it primarily inhabits cloud forests.

These habitats provide varied ecological conditions, including temperature fluctuations, humidity, and vegetation structure, that promote genetic variation among populations of this species.


There are three recognized subspecies of the Venezuelan Sylph. The nominate A.

b. berlepschi is found around the Venezuelan Andes.

A. b.

caudatus is typically found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia, with extensions to the Eastern Cordillera Central in Cundinamarca, Colombia. A.

b. margaretae’s range is restricted to the forests of the Sierra de Perij on the Colombia-Venezuela border.

Related Species

The Venezuelan Sylph has a phylogenetically complex relationship with its congeners, a major challenge for systematists. The species is part of the long-tailed sylph complex, which comprises a group of seven species within the genus Aglaiocephalus.

The species sharing morphological similarities with the Venezuelan Sylph. These include the Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii), Blue-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis), and Green-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus pulsatrix) from Northern Andes.

On the other hand, the Andean Sylph (Aglaiocercus berlepschi) and Naked-throated Sylph (Hylonympha macrocerca) split from the siblings of the same genus and survived the diversification within the family.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Climate and ecosystem changes, as well as human activities, have impacted the distribution patterns of the Venezuelan Sylph. Historical records suggest that this bird species was once widespread across the Andes.

In recent years, however, the species’ range has dramatically contracted, primarily due to habitat destruction from deforestation, human settlements, and infrastructure development. Additionally, changes in climatic conditions have impacted the biota of the Andean region and altered its ecosystems.

Changes in these forests are causing declines in the populations of the Venezuelan Sylph, Long-tailed Sylph, and other endangered avian species. Moreover, reduced forest connectivity between patches negatively impacts gene flow, creating smaller, more isolated populations with low genetic diversity that are more prone to inbreeding, disease, and extinction.


The Venezuelan Sylph’s systematics, geographic variation, subspecies, and related species have undergone significant changes over the years. Historical distribution patterns of the Venezuelan Sylph have been dramatically impacted by natural and human-induced factors.

Efforts to understand the evolutionary and ecological history of the Venezuelan Sylph are crucial for establishing effective conservation and management strategies. Researchers must keep investigating the relationships of various species in the family Trochilidae and developing molecular techniques that apply to taxonomy and the evolutionary history of hummingbirds.

The conservation of the Venezuelan Sylph is essential to preserving biodiversity in the Andean cloud forests of Venezuela and Colombia.

Habitat and Movements of the Venezuelan Sylph

The Venezuelan Sylph (Aglaiocercus berlepschi) is an avian species with a fascinating ecology and natural history. These hummingbirds are native to the Andean mountains of Venezuela and Colombia, where they make their homes in the lush cloud forests that characterize this region.

Their habitat preferences, movements, and migration patterns have been studied to better understand how best to conserve these magnificent birds. In this article, we will delve into these topics in greater detail.


The Venezuelan Sylph is a species that shows a strong affinity for the cloud forests of the Andes. They tend to inhabit montane forests at altitudes between 1,800 and 2,800 meters above sea level.

These forested areas are characterized by constant cloud cover, high humidity, and a mild temperature regime that vary between 8 to 28 degrees Celsius. Venezuelan Sylphs are found in areas with abundant vegetation and where there are flowering trees and shrubs that can provide nectar, their primary food source.

They are most commonly found in areas with tall trees like the Bomarea species, which have elongated flower tubes that the birds can access with their long bills, making them an important source of nectar for the Venezuelan Sylph.

Movements and Migration

The Venezuelan Sylph is primarily a non-migratory bird species, which means that they do not undertake long-distance migrations across the continents. However, they are known to exhibit altitudinal migrations, moving to higher elevations during the breeding season, and seeking more food-rich habitats in lower elevations during the non-breeding season.

During the breeding season, male Venezuelan Sylphs are more active, displaying aerial acrobatics to attract mates. They can fly up to a height of 28 meters and can travel up to four meters horizontally in a single flight.

They also make use of the vertical terrain to display their long tails and bright plumage, using tree branches and perches to carry out display flights that attract females. Female Venezuelan Sylphs, on the other hand, tend to be less active.

They spend more time foraging for food in the understory of the forest, where shrubs with smaller flowers providing nectar are abundant.

Historical Changes and Conservation Concerns

The Andean region has experienced significant habitat loss, fragmentation due to human activity, and climate change, which have had negative impacts on the Venezuelan Sylph population. The clearing of forests for farming, human settlements, mining, and logging activities has altered the species’ habitat composition, and thus food sources, nesting sites, and suitable perches.

To conserve the Venezuelan Sylph and its habitat, several efforts have been made to protect these areas through conservation programs and the creation of protected areas. For example, several conservation organizations partner with local indigenous communities to manage forest resources and conserve critical habitat areas for the Venezuelan Sylph.

Other conservation efforts have focused on habitat restoration and reforestation to mitigate the impacts of deforestation. Reforestation efforts can help restore areas that were once lost as a habitat for the Venezuelan Sylphs.

Through this approach, local communities can generate income from the reforestation process by producing seedlings or working with ecotourism. In conclusion, the Venezuelan Sylph is an iconic bird species that, like others, faces major challenges in an uncertain world.

By studying the ecology, habitat, movement, and migration of the Venezuelan Sylph, however, conservationists are developing strategies that promote the sustainable management of natural resources, and the safeguarding of biodiversity in the Andes region of South America. With the continued conservation and protection of their habitat, these birds will continue to dazzle us with their aerial displays for generations to come.

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