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Discover the Astonishing World of Buff-tailed Coronet Hummingbirds

Have you ever seen a bird with a bright yellow-green plumage, a buff-colored tail, and a distinctive curved bill? If so, you might have spotted a Buff-tailed Coronet, one of the most stunning hummingbirds in South America.

In this article, we will explore in detail the identification, similar species, plumages, and molts of this magnificent bird. Identification:

Field Identification

The Buff-tailed Coronet belongs to the hummingbird family and is found primarily in the Andes Mountains of South America. Males and females have very distinctive plumage differentiated by colors and patterns.

The male bird has an iridescent green upper body and a bright yellow-green lower body, as well as two white spots on the tail. On the other hand, the female’s plumage is a duller green with white underparts and a buff tail.

Both males and females have a distinctive curved bill that is serrated on the edges.

Similar Species

The Buff-tailed Coronet has some similar-looking bird species, which makes identification a bit tricky. The most similar species is the Booted Racket-tail.

Both have similar green plumage, buff-colored tails, and distinctive curved bills. However, the Buff-tailed Coronet has a buff-colored tail with a white spot on it, while the Booted Racket-tail features a long, split tail with black tufts.

The other similar species include the Fawn-breasted Brilliant and the Violet-fronted Brilliant. Plumages:

The Buff-tailed Coronet has two distinct plumages, one for males and one for females.

The males have iridescent green upperparts with a bright yellow-green lower body and two white spots on the tail. As they move their head, the bright green crown feathers flash, showing off their beautiful coloring.

The females, on the other hand, are duller in color than males. They have a green upper body, white underparts, and a buff-colored tail.


The Buff-tailed Coronet undergoes two molts in a year, the pre-basic molt and the pre-alternate molt. During the pre-basic molt, the bird replaces its old feathers with new ones.

Birds usually moult the feathers in groups, so the wings and tails may grow for a month or more before the next set of feathers starts to grow. A Buff-tailed Coronet molts once a year, which happens just before the breeding season.

During the pre-alternate molt, the bird replaces feathers on its breeding or alternate plumage. The Buff-tailed Coronet bird species has a unique breeding season where the males will display their gorgeous coloring to attract a mate.

As such, during pre-alternate molt, males shed their old feathers and grow new bright, shiny feathers to impress their potential partners. Females will also grow new feathers, but their plumage remains mostly the same.


The Buff-tailed Coronet is a beautiful bird species that is easy to identify due to its bright yellow-green lower body, buff-colored tail, curved bill, and iridescent green crown feathers. With similar species such as the Booted Racket-tail, it can be confusing; hence proper identification skills are necessary.

The bird’s two unique plumages and molts that happen once a year make them even more fascinating, worth learning about, and preserving for generations to come. Systematics History:

The Buff-tailed Coronet belongs to the family Trochilidae, which includes hummingbirds.

Systematics refer to the study of the relationships between species, and for hummingbirds, this study is essential because there are over 300 species across the world. The taxonomy of the Buff-tailed Coronet bird species has undergone many changes over the years.

These changes are a result of new discoveries, genetic studies, and advances in technology to better understand the relationships between hummingbird species. Geographic Variation:

The Buff-tailed Coronet has a diverse range that stretches across the Andean Mountains.

These Andean Mountains are a result of tectonic plate movements and provide an excellent opportunity for this bird species to diversify genetically through geographic separation. It means that the Buff-tailed Coronet species that are living on different mountain ranges may have genetic differences that resulted from being separated from each other for a long time.


Buff-tailed Coronets have several subspecies that differ slightly in their physical characteristics. The subspecies can help in identifying different bird populations within a species.

The subspecies of Buff-tailed Coronets include the following:

1. Boissonneaua flavescens flavescens – This species is also called the “Northern Buff-tailed Coronet” and is found in Colombia, Ecuador, and northwestern Venezuela.

2. Boissonneaua flavescens bolivianus – Also called the “Bolivian Buff-tailed Coronet,” this species inhabits the Andean Mountains and can be found in Bolivia, Peru, and northern Chile.

3. Boissonneaua flavescens duidae – Also called the “Duida Buff-tailed Coronet,” this subspecies is found in Venezuela and is native to the Duida range.

4. Boissonneaua flavescens nicefori – Also known as the “Niceforo’s Buff-tailed Coronet,” this species inhabits Colombia and can be found on the eastern slopes of the Andes.

Related Species:

The Buff-tailed Coronet is part of the Boissonneaua genus, which comprises a group of hummingbirds found across South America. The genus got its name from the French ornithologist, Andr Boissonneau, who had plenty of experience studying hummingbirds during the early 1900s.

The Boissonneaua genus includes several species, such as the Golden-breasted Puffleg, Bumblebee Hummingbird, and the White-eared Puffbird. Despite their differences, all these species share physical characteristics such as a curved bill, iridescent plumage, and high wingbeats.

Historical Changes to Distribution:

The Buff-tailed Coronet’s distribution has remained relatively stable over time, but there have been a few notable changes. One of the most significant changes to the Buff-tailed Coronet’s distribution was in the early 20th century when a few new subspecies were discovered.

This was a result of exploration by ornithologists, who were keen to discover and document new bird species. Another significant change occurred in the 1990s when climate change began to affect the Buff-tailed Coronet’s habitat.

The changes in temperature and precipitation patterns are affecting their food availability, leading to the decline in population in some areas. Additionally, habitat loss as human populations continue to grow has also posed a significant threat to the birds, resulting in their numbers dwindling.


The Buff-tailed Coronet is a fascinating hummingbird species that demonstrates the power of geography in shaping genetic diversity. The subspecies of this bird, the related species it shares characteristics with, and its changing distribution over time, highlight the importance of continuously studying and preserving this beautiful bird species in its natural habitat.

The challenges faced by the Buff-tailed Coronet in its habitat, including climate change and human encroachment, should be addressed to ensure the survival of this species for generations to come. Habitat:

The Buff-tailed Coronet is a hummingbird species that prefers a specific habitat that offers a few essential conditions for their survival.

These conditions include access to flowering plants, insects, and a few other environmental cues specific to hummingbird needs. The Buff-tailed Coronet inhabits the mountainous regions of South America, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru.

The species can be found in a variety of habitats ranging from humid forests to arid mountain regions. Inhabiting altitudes between 2,000 to 3,000 meters means they are adapted to cold, high ecosystems.

They also prefer habitats with a high plant diversity and flowering that ensures a consistent food source. Some of the common plants that the Buff-tailed Coronet feeds on include Lobelia, Gentiana, and Fuchsia.

Movements and Migration:

Most hummingbird species found in South and Central America are sedentary, meaning they do not migrate, but some species, including the Buff-tailed Coronet, have limited movement to migrate. In most instances, the reason hovers primarily around acquiring food, breeding and avoiding cold winters.

The Buff-tailed Coronet has some seasonal movements, but these movements don’t result in long-distance migrations. During breeding, males establish territories, and females move around, visiting various territories to select a mate.

After breeding, the males and females move to higher altitudes in search of nectar-rich flowers. The other reason hummingbirds migrate is related to food availability.

The Buff-tailed Coronet is not known to migrate for this reason, as they prefer year-round resident status at their primary ranges. Instead, they adjust their feeding behaviors in response to seasonal availability of different flowering plant species.

The Buff-tailed Coronet has to maintain their strict diet, which makes flying long distances between habitats non-essential. This adaptation makes them one of the more sedentary species compared to other migratory birds, such as swallows or geese.

In addition, the distribution of Buff-tailed Coronets has remained relatively stable over time due to the abundance of flowering plants and insects across its habitats reducing the need for significant movements and migrations. Conclusion:

The Buff-tailed Coronet is an excellent example of a sedentary hummingbird species that is adapted to cold, high-altitude environments and has a preferred habitat with a consistent food source.

This bird species does not migrate for long distances, but it has some seasonal movements in search of nectar-rich flowers and breeding territories. Understanding the behavior, movements, and habitat preferences of this species is vital to preserve their populations and support their conservation.

Diet and Foraging:


The Buff-tailed Coronet is a nectarivorous hummingbird that feeds on nectar, sap, and insects. The bird is well adapted to hovering flight and can use its curved bill to reach deep into flowers, feeding on nectar and extracting it quickly with their long, forked tongue.

Hummingbirds’ barbed tongue tips help collect nectar with the sharp, tiny cilia on the tip of their tongues. The Buff-tailed Coronet also feeds on sap from trees, which helps supplement the nectar diet’s food requirements.


This species of hummingbird feeds on the nectar of various plant species, mostly those in the Lobelia, Gentiana, and Fuchsia families. These plants’ flowers produce nectar in abundance, are brightly-colored, and have long, tube-like corollas.

The Buff-tailed Coronet bird species is also known to eat small insects, which contribute significantly to its protein needs. Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

Hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of any bird species, which reflects an extraordinary capacity for energy consumption.

They require a steady supply of nectar or insects to maintain their high metabolic demands. To meet their metabolic needs, Buff-tailed Coronets feed throughout the day, visiting up to 1700 flowers in a single day.

They have also adapted some behaviors for energy conservation, such as torpor, where they slow their critical body functions during the night to conserve energy. They are also known to shiver to raise their body temperature during cold nights.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior:


Hummingbirds like the Buff-tailed Coronet are known for their vibrant feather colors and their exceptionally fast flight capabilities. They are also known for a variety of vocalizations that contribute to their social behavior and communication.

The Buff-tailed Coronet has a varied repertoire of vocalizations, which include a series of buzzing and high-pitched calls. These calls mostly serve the function of communicating with other Buff-tailed Coronets for social and territorial purposes.

The calls may intensify during territorial disputes or defensive behavior towards neighboring territories. When attracting a mate, the male Buff-tailed Coronet will produce a high-pitched trill, sometimes accompanying with a vibrating tail.

This behavior can last for a few seconds after a male has approached the female. Conclusion:

Buff-tailed Coronets are fascinating birds that have adapted to a diet of nectar and insects.

They exhibit remarkable flight capabilities, fast metabolism, and energy conservation behaviors such as torpor to maintain high energy demands. During flights, their vocalizations assist in communication and social behavior.

As with other bird species, understanding the diet, foraging patterns, metabolism, and vocal behavior of Buff-tailed Coronets is essential in their conservation. Behavior:


The Buff-tailed Coronet is a hummingbird species that is highly adapted for aerial and hovering flight.

They can achieve hovering flight due to their ability to move their wings back and forth rapidly, generating lift that counteracts gravity. This hummingbird species has incredibly fast flight speeds and can reach up to 80km/h.

Besides, their wingbeat frequency can exceed 70 times per second, which enables them to fly forward, backward, and sideways with precision. Self Maintenance:

Buff-tailed Coronets maintain their plumage by preening, a process of cleaning, maintaining, and straightening out their feathers.

This process is essential for keeping their feathers in excellent condition, allowing them to achieve smooth and rapid flight. Agonistic Behavior:

Agonistic behavior encompasses actions like aggression and territorial behavior, which usually occur between male Buff-tailed Coronets.

Males will establish territories that they defend from rivals, using various tactics like buzzing, calling, and with physical combats. They exhibit aggressive behaviors to deter rivals and protect resources that are essential for breeding.

Sexual Behavior:

Males engage in visual and auditory displays to attract females. During the breeding season, male Buff-tailed Coronets engage in elaborate courtship behaviors, producing high-pitched vocalizations and displaying shiny plumage to attract potential mates.


The Buff-tailed Coronet breeding season begins in November and lasts through February. During this period, males establish territories, and females move from territory to territory, mating with males with established territories.

Males perform courtship flights, displaying their iridescent plumage and vocalizations to attract female Buff-tailed Coronets. After mating, the males have no further role in the upbringing of offspring.

Female Buff-tailed Coronets construct a nest to lay their eggs, which is a shallow cup made of plant materials, moss, and spider webs. They typically lay a clutch of two eggs, which are incubated by the female for 16-18 days.

The chicks are then fed a diet mixture of insects and nectar, which the male may deliver. After 20-25 days of incubation, the chicks fledge and are ready to fend for themselves.

Demography and Populations:

Buff-tailed Coronets are commonly distributed across a wide altitudinal range across South America, with the species considered of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This hummingbird species still faces some threats to their survival, including habitat loss due to human activities such as mining and agriculture and urbanization.

While being categorized as of Least Concern, there is still a need for continued surveillance for the species, especially with climate change affecting their food supply and habitat quality in certain regions. Additionally, poaching and habitat encroachment, which are a common problem for most bird species, also pose a significant threat to the Buff-tailed Coronet population.

Therefore, conservation efforts are necessary to ensure this unique and magnificent bird species’ survival for future generations.


The Buff-tailed Coronet exhibits fascinating behavior, including hovering flight, preening, and agonistic and sexual behaviors.

Their breeding method is unique as males establish territories, and females move from territory to territory. The female constructs nests to lay her eggs and incubates them until they hatch.

Overall, the species is categorized as of Least Concern but still faces threats from habitat loss, poaching, and encroachment. Hence, continued efforts in conservation and management are necessary for the survival and prosperity of this fantastic bird species.

The Buff-tailed Coronet is a remarkable hummingbird species found in the Andean Mountains of South America. This bird species exhibits stunning plumage, highly adapted behavior, and unique ecological adaptations.

This article highlights the Buff-tailed Coronet’s systematics history, habitat, movements and migration, diet and foraging, sounds and vocal behavior, behavior, breeding, and demography and populations. Understanding these aspects of Buff-tailed Coronet’s biology and ecology is crucial for the preservation of their populations and their habitats’ conservation.

Hence, it is essential to emphasize the significance of continued research and conservation efforts to ensure the survival of this unique bird species for future generations.

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