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Discover the Unique Behavior of the Brown Inca: A Stunning Bird of the Mountainous South America

The Brown Inca, also known as Coeligena wilsoni, is a stunning bird that belongs to the Trochilidae family. These birds are often found in the mountainous regions of South America and are a sight to behold with their rich brown plumage, impressive size, and unique features.


Field Identification

The Brown Inca is a medium-sized bird that measures around 11-13 cm long with a wingspan of about 20 cm. These birds have a dark brownish-black plumage, with a metallic sheen.

The males are slightly larger than the females and have a longer bill. One of the most noticeable features of the Brown Inca is its long, slightly decurved bill, which is adapted to feed on nectar in plants with long floral tube lengths.

The wings are relatively broad with pointed tips, and the tail is slightly forked.

Similar Species

The Brown Inca has some close relatives in the same genus and could be confused with them. They include:


Golden-bellied Starfrontlet: These are only found in Colombia, whereas Brown Inca is found in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and northern Chile. 2.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet: These birds also have a distinctive long bill but have a chestnut-colored breast patch. 3.

Buff-tailed Coronet: These are slightly smaller than the Brown Inca and have a buffy colored tail instead of the forked tail of the Brown Inca.


The Brown Inca has a simple plumage with no obvious distinguishing features between sexes. The adult male and female birds show minimal sexual dimorphism, with both sexes possessing similar colors.


The Brown Inca undergoes two molts in a year. The first molt occurs in its breeding season and is a partial molt, which results in new feathers on the head, neck, and chest.

The second molt is a complete molt that occurs after the breeding season. During this time, the bird replaces all its feathers in a process that takes about four months.

Through both molts, the Brown Inca changes the appearance of its plumage slightly by replacing the feathers with new, shiny ones. The molting of feathers allows the bird to maintain flight capability and protect it from the elements.

In conclusion, the Brown Inca is a striking bird that is easily recognizable by its long, curved bill and metallic brown-black plumage. Its unique features make it stand out among other bird species and are effortlessly identifiable even from afar.

If you are fortunate enough to see one, you are in for a treat. The Brown Inca is an intriguing bird species belonging to the Trochilidae family.

This bird is commonly found in the mountainous regions of South America and is renowned for its stunning brown plumage and unique features.

Systematics History

The Brown Inca’s scientific name is Coeligena wilsoni, honoring Alexander Wilson, a famous Scottish-American ornithologist. The bird species was first described in 1832 by a French ornithologist named Rene Primevere Lesson.

Geographic Variation

The Brown Inca has geographical variation in its morphology. Birds from the northern Andes are generally smaller and have less iridescence on their feathers, whereas those from the central Andes have more iridescence and larger body size.

The southern Andes populations have intermediate body size characteristics. There is also variation in bill length and shape between the populations, possibly associated with differences in food resources.


There are six recognized subspecies of the Brown Inca bird species:

1. C.

w. wilsoni – found in the northern Andes from western Venezuela to central Colombia.

2. C.

w. caudata – found from southern Colombia to northern Peru in the eastern Andes.

3. C.

w. brehmi – found in central Peru.

4. C.

w. ferruginea – found in the central-northern Andes of Peru and Ecuador.

5. C.

w. bogotensis – found in the northern-central Andes of Colombia.

6. C.

w. hellmayri – found in the southern Andes from Peru to central Chile.

Related Species

There are close relatives of Brown Inca that exist in the same genus and family, including:

1. Collared Inca (Coeligena torquata): They occur in the Andes, from Venezuela to Bolivia and have a distinctive blue-green coloration on their plumage.

2. Velvet-browed Brilliant (Heliodoxa xanthogonys): These birds have a iridescence appearance like the Brown Inca and have a bright green-yellow color on the throat and breast.

3. Violetear (Colibri delphinae): These are small birds compared to brown Inca and have a violet patch behind their ears.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Brown Inca’s distribution range has undergone significant changes in history. Over the past century, human activities, specifically deforestation, mining, and agricultural land conversion, have caused a decline in the bird’s population.

With the interruption and fragmentation of the Brown Inca’s natural habitat, their population becomes smaller, leading to the genetic isolation of different populations, making them evolutionarily distinct from each other. This situation creates challenges for conservationists who are responsible for figuring out the best way to conserve, restore and manage the bird’s population throughout their range.

In conclusion, the Brown Inca bird species has been classified under the Trochilidae family, and it has unique traits that make them stand out among other bird species. Their morphology varies depending on their geographical location, and they have close relatives in the same genus and family.

However, humans’ decision to carry out human activities in the bird’s habitat has led to significant environmental degradation, placing the species in considerable danger of extinction. It is thus crucial to protect and conserve the bird, ensuring that it continues to exist for a long time to come.


Brown Inca birds are native to the mountainous areas of South America. They are found in tropical and subtropical rainforests, cloud forests, and humid montane forests.

They prefer areas with dense vegetation, which provides them with the needed food and shelter. While they can tolerate habitat disturbance, they prefer primary forests.

The Brown Inca bird also occurs in secondary vegetation, forest edges, and plantations, as long as the vegetation structure exists.

Movements and Migration

Brown Inca birds are generally non-migratory. However, in some instances, their movements are determined by altitude.

During the breeding season, the birds usually move to higher altitudes, where they establish their territories and breed. They will then descend to lower altitudes during the non-breeding season.

Populations at the highest altitudes and in the southernmost parts of the distribution range may move locally, vertically, or latitudinally in response to food and climatic conditions. Brown Inca birds are known for their agility and swift flying capabilities.

They use their powerful wings to move quickly among vegetation where they look for nectar, insects, or spiders – their primary food sources. The birds’ long bill helps them to extract nectar from flowers.

The Brown Inca is known to be highly territorial and will aggressively defend their territory, though little is known about their specific movements.

Conservation Status

The Brown Inca’s populations decreased over the years due to several human activities, including habitat destruction, fragmentation, and degradation. The high altitude and narrow distribution also make them more vulnerable to changes in their environment as the available habitat is narrow.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the Brown Inca is classified as a species of least concern. Despite the challenges, the birds are still relatively abundant in their native habitat, and there is no immediate threat of extinction.

Conservation measures to protect the Brown Inca include habitat restoration, and the establishment of protected areas, conservation programs, and captive breeding. The birds thrive best in areas where their habitat is protected and restored, with the necessary food sources available to them.


The Brown Inca is an exquisite bird species that is highly adapted to the mountainous regions of South America. Their habitat and movement patterns are influenced by several factors, including altitude, vegetation structure, and food resources.

The Brown Inca bird is non-migratory, except for local movements, which are determined by food and climatic conditions. The Brown Inca’s decline in population is attributable to human activities, and conservation measures such as habitat restoration and protection have been put in place to mitigate this decline.

Overall, the unique features of the Brown Inca make it an essential species that requires maximum protection and conservation measures to ensure its long-term survival.

Diet and Foraging

The Brown Inca bird species is primarily nectarivorous. Their long, curved bill is perfectly adapted to feeding on the nectar of flowering plants with long floral tubes.

Despite their primary nectarivorous diet, the birds also feed on some insects, which they use as a source of protein.


The Brown Inca bird spends most of its time foraging for nectar to meet its high metabolic demands. They feed by hovering near flowers, usually around 5-6 times per second and extending their bill as far as possible through the flower divisions to reach the nectar.

When foraging on flowers with short floral tubes, they search for nectar by hovering and thrusting their head and beak into the wide opening. The birds feed on the nectar by inserting their long, curved bill into the flowers to extract the sweet liquid.


Apart from nectar, the Brown Inca bird also feeds on insects such as ants, aphids, and spiders. The birds use their long bill to capture these insects from the vegetation.

Young birds mainly eat insects as they require protein to grow.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Brown Inca bird’s primary diet of nectar requires high metabolic rates to provide the necessary energy the bird needs. They maintain high body temperatures through a specialized metabolism process called torpor, which allows them to reduce energy expenditure.

During the night, the Brown Inca’s body temperature drops to 18C to conserve energy. This drop in body temperature is achieved by reducing the heart and breathing rates, thus reducing energy usage.

In the morning, the birds raise their body temperature by basking in the sun.

Sounds and Vocal



The Brown Inca bird’s vocalization is essential for territory defense and attracting a mate. They use various calls, which are often varied, consisting of loud, far-carrying and monotonous notes.

Their calls are usually louder and more raucous than other bird species. The Brown Inca’s vocal repertoire includes various calls, including a rapid, high-pitched, and three-syllable whistle that lasts 2-3 seconds.

The bird also produces a single note with sharp, harsh, and metallic sound, which is repeated at intervals of 4-5 seconds. Both males and females produce vocalizations, and during the breeding season, the songs can be heard regularly.

Males perform elaborate aerial displays during mating seasons, consisting of dipping flights and high-speed dives, accompanied by the production of loud and trilled whistle vocalizations. These aerial displays are intended to display their fitness and attract the females’ attention.


In conclusion, the Brown Inca bird has a nectarivorous and insectivorous diet with a high metabolic rate that enables its body to maintain its high temperature through the use of torpor. They have a unique vocalization repertoire that is essential for communication, defense of their territory, and attracting a mate.

The bird species’ diet and foraging patterns make it adaptable to varying environmental conditions, and their vocalization adds to their unique, striking features. The conservation of the bird species’ habitat, coupled with sustained efforts to increase public awareness on their importance, will ensure the Brown Inca’s survival for future generations.


The Brown Inca bird species has unique characteristics and behavior that make it an interesting subject of study. Here’s more detail on their behavior:


Brown Inca birds typically fly by beating their wings rapidly, enabling them to move quickly through the forest in search of resources or to establish and defend their territories. The birds can also fly backward and hover when they are looking for nectar or insects.

Self Maintenance

Brown Inca birds are fastidious in their self-maintenance, and their intricate feathers require constant care. They use their beaks and specialized feather mechanisms to clean and groom their plumage regularly.



The Brown Inca bird has a highly territorial nature, and males usually defend a breeding territory from intruders. They defend their territories through aggressive behavior, such as chasing the intruders and engaging in aerial combat.



The Brown Inca bird’s sexual behavior can vary depending on the population. In some areas, males will perform elaborate courtship displays for females, which can include aerial displays, where males fly high above their territories, producing loud vocalizations and dipping movements.


Brown Inca birds have a breeding season that varies depending on their altitude and geographical location. The breeding season usually occurs during the rainy months, which provides the necessary vegetation growth for the birds to build their nests.

Female Brown Inca birds are primarily responsible for building nests, which are usually cup-shaped and are constructed from small sticks, grass, and lichen, and decorated with moss and epiphytes. The female will lay two eggs, which will hatch in about two weeks.

Chicks are born altricial, with little or no feathers and unable to move or survive on their own. Both male and female birds will work together to care for their young birds, feeding them with insects and nectar, and protecting them from predators.

Demography and Populations

The Brown Inca bird population has been affected by various factors, including habitat loss and fragmentation. Due to their narrow range, populations are vulnerable to environmental changes and natural disasters.

Conservation measures, including habitat restoration and protection, have been put in place to protect the Brown Inca bird and its habitat. Population monitoring and breeding programs have also helped to prevent their population decline.

The Brown Inca is currently classified as a species of least concern, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. This classification is mainly due to the bird species’ healthy population numbers and distribution range.

However, conservation efforts are still necessary to ensure the continued survival of these beautiful birds.


In conclusion, the Brown Inca bird species displays unique behavior patterns, such as their self-maintenance, territorial, and sexual behavior. The birds have a breeding season based on their geographical location, and both males and females participate in caring for their young.

Habitat loss, fragmentation, and environmental changes are major challenges affecting the survival of the Brown Inca bird, and conservation measures, including monitoring and breeding programs, are essential for their conservation. Overall, the Brown Inca bird species remains a critical part of the ecosystem and is a delight to observe in their natural habitat.

The Brown Inca is a unique bird species found in the mountainous regions of South America, with remarkable behavior patterns, vocalization, and dietary preferences. Despite their small size, the birds are highly territorial, and their behavior is fascinating.

Unfortunately, habitat loss, fragmentation, and environmental changes pose a threat to their existence. Nevertheless, conservation efforts have been put in place to protect and preserve the bird species, including habitat restoration and protection, monitoring, and breeding programs.

These efforts will ensure the survival of the Brown Inca and contribute significantly to the wider conservation efforts of other bird species. The Brown Inca is a crucial component of the ecological system, and it is vital to protect them for current and future generations to enjoy their unique features.

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