Bird O'clock

7 Astonishing Facts About the Black-Thighed Puffleg Bird

Nature has always been a subject of fascination for everyone. It is full of wonders and surprises to explore, and one of the most significant components of nature is birds.

One such fascinating bird species is the Black-thighed Puffleg, scientifically known as Eriocnemis derbyi. This bird is a stunning creature with amazing physical features and habitats worthy of discussion.

This article aims to educate readers on the identification, plumages, and behavior of the Black-thighed Puffleg, making it an exciting read for bird lovers. Identification:

Field Identification:

The Black-thighed Puffleg is a small hummingbird, measuring around 10 cm, which makes it one of the smallest hummingbirds in the world.

This bird is colorful, with a bright green head, wings, and back and a blue-green tail. Its most distinct feature is the black spot on its throat, which extends to the chest, and the female does not have the black spot.

The bird has black thighs, as the name suggests, and the iridescent violet throat and crown make it stand out. It also has a short, straight bill, which is helpful in eating nectar from flowers.

Similar Species:

The Black-thighed Puffleg’s bright green coloration makes it easily distinguished from other hummingbird species. However, there are other species that might be similar to it.

For instance, the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird species has bright green coloration, but its distinguishing feature is its long, straight bill. Therefore, for easy identification, one should concentrate on the black spot on the bird’s throat and chest and the distinctive black thighs.

Plumages:

Molts:

The Black-thighed Puffleg’s feathers undergo annual molts. They have two molts each year, one during the breeding season and another after the breeding season.

During the breeding season, their feathers are mostly brownish and dull, and after breeding, their feathers become brighter and greener. Additionally, male plumages differ according to age, with a young male’s throat and crown lacking the iridescent violet coloration.

Behavior and Habitat:

The Black-thighed Puffleg is mainly found in the subtropical and tropical regions of Ecuador, South America, and at altitudes of between 2000m to 3000m. These birds prefer to dwell in humid and wet forests with thick vegetation, especially mossy places.

They are territorial creatures, aggressive to other birds, and will chase them away, including larger birds. The Black-thighed Puffleg consumes nectar from plants and trees like the fuchsia and Lobelia, which ensure that they remain healthy and nourished.

Conclusion:

Bird lovers will undoubtedly find the Black-thighed Puffleg to be an exciting creature for its features, behavior, and habitat. This bird is easy to spot and identify due to its distinctive physical features, and its annual molts make it an interesting species to study.

Its behavior is also noteworthy, as it is a territorial bird and known to chase away other birds. The habitat preference of the Black-thighed Puffleg also makes it stand out, as it must live in humid and wet forests with thick vegetation.

In conclusion, the Black-thighed Puffleg is a beautiful bird species to learn about, and there is an endless amount to discover. Systematics History:

The Black-thighed Puffleg, Eriocnemis derbyi, is a hummingbird species that belongs to the Trochilidae family.

The species was first described in 1881 by John Gould, an English ornithologist. Over time, the Black-thighed Puffleg has undergone several systematics revisions as the scientific community has gained new information about the species.

Geographic Variation:

The geographic variation of the Black-thighed Puffleg species has been studied extensively by ornithologists. The species has been found in multiple locations in the Andes Mountains of South America and shows significant variation in physical characteristics between these locations.

Habitat adaptation and geographic isolation have influenced this variation in the species. Subspecies:

There are four subspecies of the Black-thighed Puffleg species that have been identified to date.

The first subspecies, E. d.

derbyi, is found in southern and southeastern Ecuador. The second subspecies, E.

d. berlepschi, is located in northern Peru and southern Ecuador.

The third subspecies, E. d.

aequatorialis, is found in the Andes Mountains across central Ecuador. The fourth subspecies, E.

d. centralis, is found in the Andes Mountains and the west slope of the eastern cordillera, in central Ecuador.

Related Species:

There are several other hummingbird species that are closely related to the Black-thighed Puffleg. These related species share similar physical attributes, habitat preferences, and geographic ranges.

Some of the species that are closely related to the Black-thighed Puffleg include the Velvet-browed Brilliant, the Collared Inca, the Green-tailed Trainbearer, and the Purple-throated Sunangel. Historical Changes to Distribution:

The distribution of the Black-thighed Puffleg species has changed over time due to various factors such as habitat degradation, deforestation, and climate change.

The species has been largely confined to the Andean mountain range of South America, but even within this range, they have experienced significant habitat loss. The subpopulations in southern Ecuador have been severely fragmented, resulting in smaller populations with little genetic interchange.

The species has also experienced changes in its distribution range over time. It was once thought that the Black-thighed Puffleg was restricted to the Andean mountain range of South America.

However, studies have shown that the species can be found further north in Colombia and Venezuela. Another significant change in the distribution of the Black-thighed Puffleg has been the impact of climate change.

As the climate continues to warm, montane cloud forests, which are the preferred habitat of the Black-thighed Puffleg, are moving up in elevation. This shift in habitat has led to the fragmentation of the Black-thighed Puffleg population, affecting their genetic diversity and reproductive success.

In conclusion, the Black-thighed Puffleg species is an important component of the Andean mountain range and is closely related to other hummingbird species. The species has significant geographic variation and has been studied extensively by ornithologists over time.

The species’ distribution has been impacted by human activities and climate change, leading to fragmented populations and changes in habitat preferences. As such, the Black-thighed Puffleg serves as an important indicator of environmental health and is a species that must be closely monitored and conserved.

Habitat:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species is primarily found in humid and wet forests in the Andean mountain range of South America. They prefer to live in forests with thick understorey vegetation that provides cover and shelter.

The species is well adapted to living in montane cloud forests, also known as elfin forests, which are characterized by high altitudes, high humidity, and low temperatures. The humid and wet forests provide the Black-thighed Puffleg with suitable habitats for foraging, nesting, and roosting.

The species is often found near bodies of water like streams and rivers, which provides an adequate supply of nectar-producing plants. Movements and Migration:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species is not known to undertake long-distance migrations like other bird species.

However, individuals may move short distances seasonally from their primary habitat in response to changing food or weather conditions. In dry seasons, seasonal movements may occur to more humid areas where nectar-producing plants are abundant.

Similarly, during wet seasons, birds may move to drier areas to avoid heavy rainfall.

The species has developed specialized foraging techniques that enable them to survive in the Andean mountain range’s harsh environments.

During the breeding season, males often defend their territories and forage in areas rich in nectar-producing plants to attract potential mates. Females, on the other hand, forage in a wider area away from male territories, where they feed on nectar from different types of flowers, including the Fuchsia and Lobelia.

Females are known to choose nesting sites that are in forests with abundant nectar sources to ensure that they have enough food to feed their chicks. The Black-thighed Puffleg species’ movements are primarily influenced by changes in the availability of food and water and seek to maximize their chances of survival.

As such, the species is limited in its movements as it is largely dependent on the availability of nectar-producing plants, which are localized to certain habitats. Conservation Measures:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species is considered a vulnerable species due to habitat loss from deforestation, habitat degradation, and fragmentation.

The montane cloud forests preferred by the species are under threat from logging and agriculture, which have resulted in reduced forest cover in the Andean mountain range. Climate change has also led to the loss of habitat as it causes plants to move up in elevation and fragment Black-thighed Puffleg populations.

Conservation measures aimed at ensuring the Black-thighed Puffleg’s survival have been implemented in recent years. These measures include habitat protection by creating reserves and national parks that safeguard montane cloud forests.

Additionally, other measures such as reforestation, ecological monitoring, and the establishment of conservation programs have been implemented across the bird’s range. Education and awareness programs targeting local communities have also been implemented to reduce habitat destruction by promoting sustainable land-use practices that reduce deforestation and habitat degradation.

Conclusion:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species is an important bird species in the Andean mountain range and serves as an indicator species for the health of the montane cloud forests. This species is well adapted to living in humid and wet forests and has specific habitat requirements.

The bird’s movements are primarily influenced by changes in availability of food and water, and this species does not undertake long-distance migrations like other bird species. The main threat to the species is habitat loss from deforestation and habitat fragmentation.

Conservation measures aimed at protecting the bird’s habitats are essential for ensuring the species’ long-term survival. Diet and Foraging:

Feeding:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species is a nectarivorous bird that feeds primarily on nectar from flowering plants.

Nectar is a high-energy food source that provides the bird with the nutrients needed for its metabolic processes, and this species has adapted to feeding on a range of nectar-producing plants. The bird has specialized tongues and bills that are perfectly adapted for extracting nectar from flowers.

Diet:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species has adapted to feeding on a range of nectar-producing plants that grow in the Andean mountain range. These plants include the Fuchsia and Lobelia, and the bird will visit these plants at different times depending on the flowering season and nectar production.

In addition to nectar, the species also feeds on small insects, which provide additional protein. These insects are usually captured while the bird is hovering in front of flowers instead of perching.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

The high-energy diet of the Black-thighed Puffleg is essential for its metabolic processes and activity. The species has a high metabolic rate that enables it to sustain a hovering flight, which is critical for their foraging behavior.

Additionally, the humid montane cloud forests where the bird lives have low temperatures, and the bird must maintain a constant body temperature to function properly. The bird has adapted to living in this damp and always cool environment and has developed physiological adaptations that enable it to maintain its body temperature in different environmental conditions.

The species has developed a unique respiratory system that allows them to extract more oxygen from the air, which helps in maintaining the bird’s metabolism. Additionally, their wings are large in proportion to their body size, and during flight, they generate considerable heat that helps the bird maintain its core body temperature.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior:

Vocalization:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species vocalizes using a variety of sounds, including songs, calls, and displays. Male birds use their vocalizations as a display for courtship, while females use them to signal their presence to their male counterparts.

The bird’s vocalizations are a mixture of high-pitched notes, trills, and chirps and can vary in the number and length of notes. Males use song as a key signal for mating and territory defense.

The song of the Black-thighed Puffleg is a loud, high-pitched, and prolonged chirping. Males sing while hovering or perching and are most active during the breeding season.

Females, on the other hand, have a softer, shorter chirp that is used to signal their presence to their male counterparts. In addition to vocalizations, the Black-thighed Puffleg also uses visual displays during courtship.

Male birds will display their iridescent throat and crown feathers by puffing them up and raising their tail feathers while hovering. This visual display is accompanied by vocalizations and is used to attract a mate.

Conclusion:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species is a nectarivorous bird that feeds primarily on nectar-producing plants. The bird has developed specialized tongues and bills adapted to extract nectar from flowers.

The diet of the Black-thighed Puffleg provides the energy required for its high metabolic rate and hovering flight. The bird also feeds on small insects, which provide additional protein.

The bird’s metabolism and temperature regulation have developed various physiological adaptations to maintain core body temperature in the cool, damp environment where it lives. The Black-thighed Puffleg species uses a variety of sounds, including songs and calls, for vocalization and displays during courtship.

Vocalizations are used to communicate with both sexes, while visual displays are mainly used by males during courtship. Understanding the Black-thighed Puffleg’s diet, foraging behavior, and vocalization is essential for conservation efforts and managing the bird’s population.

Behavior:

Locomotion:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species uses its wings and tail to maneuver through its habitat while foraging. The species is capable of hovering in front of flowers while feeding, which requires considerable energy.

The bird’s wings beat rapidly to sustain a hovering flight and generate heat to maintain core body temperature in the cool, damp environment. Self Maintenance:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species has various self-maintenance behaviors needed for survival.

The bird will preen its feathers by using its beak to remove dirt, dust, and old feathers, keeping its plumage in pristine condition. Additionally, the species will sunbathe to dry off and regulate their body temperature.

Agonistic Behavior:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species is a territorial bird and will defend its territory from other birds, including other Black-thighed Pufflegs. Agonistic behavior is common during the breeding season when males compete for mating rights.

Males will engage in aerial chases and territorial displays, including vocalizations and visual displays, to defend their territory. Sexual Behavior:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species engages in courtship behavior during the breeding season.

Male birds will perform visual and vocal displays to attract a mate, while females evaluate the displays and choose a partner. Once paired, the male will help the female identify suitable nest sites for breeding.

Breeding:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species breeds during the rainy season, which is typically from October to February. The female bird will build a nest out of moss, leaves, and spider webs in a sheltered spot, often located on a bank or slope in the forest.

The nest is usually well camouflaged and difficult to spot, measuring about 4 cm in diameter. Once the nest is complete, the female will lay two tiny white eggs, each measuring about 1 cm.

The female will incubate the eggs for approximately 14 days before they hatch. Both parents will feed the chicks a diet consisting of a mixture of nectar and insects.

The chicks will fledge and leave the nest after about 20 days. Demography and Populations:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species’ population and demography are not well understood due to the bird’s habitat preferences and the challenging terrain they inhabit.

The species is considered to be vulnerable due to habitat destruction and fragmentation caused by human activities like deforestation and farming. Conservation measures are being implemented to protect the species and reduce habitat degradation.

These measures include creating national parks and reserves that protect montane cloud forests, ecological monitoring, and establishing conservation programs. Education and awareness programs targeting local communities are also being implemented to reduce habitat destruction by promoting sustainable land-use practices.

Conclusion:

The Black-thighed Puffleg species is a fascinating bird species with unique behaviors and adaptations. The bird’s self-maintenance behavior and locomotion are essential to their survival in the montane cloud forests.

The species is territorial and engages in agonistic behavior to defend their territory, particularly during the breeding season. Breeding behavior is also interesting as male birds perform visual and vocal displays to attract a mate, and both parents share in the rearing of the chicks.

The species’ population and demography are poorly understood, and conservation measures are needed to protect the bird’s habitat and ensure its survival. The Black-thighed Puffleg bird species is an incredible example of a nectarivorous bird species well adapted to living in the humid forests of the Andean Mountains.

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