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Fascinating Facts About the Brazilian Ruby: Agile Flight Unique Plumage and More!

Among the colorful exotic birds that inhabit the Brazilian rainforest, one species stands out for its striking plumage and unique characteristics: the Brazilian Ruby, also known as Heliodoxa rubricauda. In this article, we will explore the fascinating features of this bird, from its field identification to its plumages and molts.


Field Identification

The Brazilian Ruby is a medium-sized bird that measures about 12 to 13 cm in length and weighs around 8 to 12 g. It has a distinctive plumage that makes it easy to identify, especially the males.

The upperparts of the male are bright green with a metallic sheen, while the underparts are duller, with a yellowish-green hue. The most striking feature of the male is the long, forked tail, which is iridescent blue-green on top and reddish-brown underneath.

The female, on the other hand, has a less striking plumage, with a greenish-brown color on the upperparts and lighter underparts, with a white throat and buff sides.

Similar Species

The Brazilian Ruby is often confused with other hummingbird species that share similar characteristics, such as the Green-crowned Brilliant, the Black-eared Fairy, and the Amethyst Woodstar. However, each of these species can be distinguished by specific features.

For example, the Green-crowned Brilliant has a green crown and has a more purplish-blue tail, while the Black-eared Fairy has a white stripe behind the eyes and a dark ear patch. The Amethyst Woodstar, on the other hand, has a shorter tail and a more purplish sheen on the crown.


The Brazilian Ruby has two main plumages: the adult plumage and the juvenile plumage. The adult plumage is the brighter and more striking of the two, and it is achieved after the first complete molt, which occurs around one year of age.

The male’s iridescent colors become more vibrant, and the tail feathers become longer and more forked, while the female’s plumage also becomes greener and more striking. The juvenile plumage is more drab and has less distinct colors, and it is usually retained until the first complete molt.


The Brazilian Ruby, like all hummingbirds, undergoes molts, which are the shedding and replacement of old feathers with new ones. The first molt occurs after the bird has reached maturity and achieved its adult plumage, usually around one year of age.

After that, the bird will have a complete molt every year, which typically occurs after the breeding season, around April to June. During the molt, the bird will lose all its feathers at once and grow a new set within a few weeks.

This process is vital for maintaining the bird’s ability to fly and survive, as old or damaged feathers can be detrimental to its health and survivability.


In conclusion, the Brazilian Ruby is a fascinating bird species with unique characteristics and exquisite plumage. Its vibrant green and iridescent blue-green colors, combined with its long, forked tail, make it a popular sight for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts.

By understanding its field identification, plumages, and molts, we can gain a better appreciation of this magnificent bird and its role in the biodiversity of the Brazilian rainforest.

Systematics History

The Brazilian Ruby, also known as Heliodoxa rubricauda, is a small bird species that belongs to the family Trochilidae or hummingbirds. Its classification has undergone numerous changes over the years, based on various factors such as genetic analysis, morphology, and behavior.

In this article, we will explore the systematics history of the Brazilian Ruby and how it has evolved over time.

Geographic Variation

The Brazilian Ruby is distributed across a wide range of habitats, from the lowland rainforests to the montane forests of the Andes. As a result, there is significant geographic variation among different populations of the species.

This variation is particularly evident in its plumage, which can differ in coloration, size, and shape, depending on the location. The most significant geographic variation occurs in the tail length, which ranges from relatively short in the southern populations to much longer in the northern populations.


Based on the geographic variation, several subspecies of the Brazilian Ruby have been recognized. There are six recognized subspecies, each with distinct characteristics and distribution:


H. r.

rubricauda (northern Brazil, Venezuela, and the Guianas)

2. H.

r. peruviana (eastern Colombia, western Venezuela, and northern Peru)


H. r.

aequatorialis (central Ecuador)

4. H.

r. kubtchkovi (northern Ecuador)


H. r.

swainsonii (northwestern Colombia)

6. H.

r. belloi (Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru)

Each subspecies can be distinguished by differences in plumage, such as the size and shape of the tail and the presence or absence of a gorget or spot on the throat.

Genetic analysis has also confirmed the differences between the subspecies.

Related Species

The Brazilian Ruby belongs to the genus Heliodoxa, which comprises several other hummingbird species, such as the Long-tailed Sylph and the Violet-fronted Brilliant. These species share similar characteristics, such as the long, forked tails and iridescent plumage, and are closely related based on molecular and morphological evidence.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The distribution of the Brazilian Ruby has undergone significant changes over time, due mostly to climate fluctuations and habitat loss. During the last glacial period, which lasted from approximately 110,000 to 12,000 years ago, the bird’s range was limited to a small area around the Amazon river basin.

As temperatures began to warm up, the species expanded its range northwards, reaching the Guianas and Venezuela. In recent years, the Brazilian Ruby, along with many other bird species, has faced significant habitat loss due to deforestation and agriculture.

The Amazon rainforest, the bird’s primary habitat, has experienced widespread destruction due to logging, mining, and farming, causing the species to lose a significant portion of its range. As a result, many populations of the bird are now considered vulnerable or endangered, particularly in the southern parts of its range.

One notable case of historical change in the distribution of the Brazilian Ruby is the discovery of a previously unknown population in Argentina. In 2009, a birdwatcher discovered a male Brazilian Ruby in a suburb of Buenos Aires, about 2,000 km south of its known range.

Genetic analysis confirmed that the bird was a member of the species, suggesting that it may have migrated southwards or that a population may exist in the Andes, which connects with the Brazilian Ruby’s northern range.


In conclusion, the Brazilian Ruby’s systematics history is a fascinating subject that sheds light on its evolution and distribution. The bird’s geographic variation and subspecies have been well-studied, and its related species provide insight into its evolutionary history.

However, the historical changes to the bird’s distribution, particularly due to habitat loss, serve as a reminder of the threats faced by many bird species today and the need for conservation efforts to safeguard their future.


The Brazilian Ruby is a bird species that is native to the rainforests of South America. They prefer dense, humid forests with dense undergrowth and are usually found in the canopy layer, feeding on nectar from flowers high above the forest floor.

They have been spotted from sea level up to an altitude of 1,500 meters, but they are most commonly found between 500 and 1,200 meters above sea level. The Brazilian Ruby plays an important role in the ecology of the Amazon rainforest.

They are important pollinators, helping to ensure the propagation of plant species through pollination, and they are known to feed on the nectar of over 130 different plant species. Their diet also includes insects, which they catch on the wing, and they have been seen taking spider webs to help bind their nests.

Movements and Migration

The Brazilian Ruby is known to be a non-migratory species, meaning that it does not undertake long-distance movements in search of food or breeding opportunities. However, there have been reports of some seasonal movements, particularly in response to changes in the availability of food or environmental conditions.

During the breeding season, males are known to exhibit an increase in aggression towards other males, particularly in areas where food is scarce. They will fiercely defend their territories and the flowers within them, sometimes chasing away other birds and even insects that come too close.

Outside of the breeding season, males are generally more tolerant of other males, and they may feed together at the same flowers. It is believed that the Brazilian Ruby moves between elevations with changes in seasonal climate.

For example, during the dry season, the birds may move to lower elevations where food and water are more abundant, while in the wet season, they may move to higher elevations where nesting opportunities are more favorable. Despite being a non-migratory species, the Brazilian Ruby can occasionally be found in areas outside of their typical range, such as in northern Argentina, where a small population has been reported.

It is believed that these birds may be moving southwards in search of food, although there is little data to support this theory.

Conservation Status

The Brazilian Ruby, like many other hummingbird species, is threatened by habitat loss and degradation. The Amazon rainforest, which covers much of the bird’s range, is experiencing widespread deforestation due to logging, mining, and agriculture.

Deforestation not only reduces the habitat available for the birds, but it can also affect their food sources and breeding opportunities. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Brazilian Ruby as a species of least concern due to its relatively wide distribution and stable population trend.

However, regional populations in certain areas, such as the southern part of their range, are considered vulnerable or endangered due to habitat loss and degradation. Conservation efforts for the Brazilian Ruby have focused on protecting its habitat, promoting sustainable land use practices, such as agroforestry and ecotourism, and raising awareness among local communities of the importance of conserving biodiversity.

The establishment of protected areas, such as national parks and nature reserves, has also played a crucial role in safeguarding the bird’s habitat.


In conclusion, the Brazilian Ruby is a fascinating bird species that is adapted to life in the Amazon rainforest. Its habitat preferences and ecological role make it an important species in the region, although it is threatened by habitat loss and degradation.

While it is considered a non-migratory species, the bird may exhibit some seasonal movements in response to changing environmental conditions or food availability. Conservation efforts to protect its habitat and raise awareness of its importance are crucial in ensuring the future survival of the species and the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest.

Diet and Foraging

The Brazilian Ruby is a nectarivorous bird species that feeds mostly on floral nectar from a variety of plant species. They are also known to feed on insects and spiders, which provide them with the necessary protein and other important nutrients that nectar alone cannot provide.


The Brazilian Ruby has a long, thin bill that allows them to probe deep into flowers to extract the nectar. They have a long tongue that can extend much further than their bill, allowing them to reach deep into the flower to obtain the nectar.

Their tongue is also covered in tiny hair-like structures that help to lick up the nectar easily.


The diet of the Brazilian Ruby varies depending on the availability of food sources. During the breeding season, they tend to favor nectar-rich flowering plants, and they have been observed feeding on over 130 different plant species.

They are also known to feed on insects, particularly during the non-breeding season when nectar is less abundant. Their insect diet includes mosquitoes, flies, ants, bees, and wasps, which they catch in flight or pluck from spider webs.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Hummingbirds, including the Brazilian Ruby, have a very high metabolism and must consume large amounts of food relative to their body size to maintain their energy levels. To compensate for their high energy demands, they feed almost continuously throughout the day, taking in anywhere from 30 to 60% of their body weight in food.

To maintain their energy levels, hummingbirds also have a high body temperature that helps them maintain their metabolic rate. The Brazilian Ruby has an average body temperature of around 41 degrees Celsius, which is much higher than most other bird species.

They are also known to enter a state of torpor during the night or when food sources are scarce, which helps to conserve energy while they are inactive.

Sounds and Vocal


The Brazilian Ruby has a range of vocalizations that they use for different purposes, including communication, mating, and territory defense. They have been observed using a variety of calls, songs, and displays that vary depending on the individual and the situation.


The Brazilian Ruby’s vocalizations are often high-pitched and loud, with a distinct vibrating quality that makes them easy to recognize. They have been observed using different vocalizations for different purposes, such as a high-pitched trill that is used for territorial defense, and a series of chipping notes that are used during courtship displays.

The songs of the Brazilian Ruby are also unique, consisting of a series of short, high-pitched notes that are delivered in rapid succession. These songs are often used during courtship displays, where males will sing to attract females and establish their territory.


In conclusion, the Brazilian Ruby is a fascinating bird species that is well-adapted to life in the Amazon rainforest. Their diet and foraging behavior are unique, with a preference for nectar-rich flowering plants and a reliance on insects and spiders for added nutrition.

Their high metabolism and body temperature, combined with their need to feed almost continuously, make them one of the most energetically demanding bird species in the world. Their vocalizations are also unique, with high-pitched and vibrating calls that are used for communication, mating, and territory defense.

Understanding these aspects of their behavior and ecology is crucial in conserving this remarkable species and the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest.


The Brazilian Ruby is a fascinating bird species with unique behaviors that have been studied extensively by ornithologists and birdwatchers alike. From their agile locomotion to their complex social interactions, these behaviors provide insight into the ecology and biology of this remarkable species.


The Brazilian Ruby is known for its highly agile and acrobatic flight, which allows it to navigate through the dense vegetation of the rainforest with ease. They are capable of hovering and even flying backward, thanks to their powerful wing muscles and specialized shoulder joints that allow them to rotate their wings in a figure-eight pattern.

They are also known to make quick sallies to catch insects and other prey on the wing, using their long tongue to catch them in mid-air.


The Brazilian Ruby engages in various behaviors to maintain its plumage and keep its feathers clean. They will preen themselves by using their bill to clean and rearrange their feathers, removing dirt and parasites.

They also take frequent dust baths, rolling in loose soil or sand to help remove excess oil and dirt from their feathers. Agonistic and Sexual


The Brazilian Ruby is known to exhibit a complex array of social behaviors, which are important for maintaining territories, establishing dominance, and attracting mates.

Males will engage in agonistic behavior, such as chasing away other males from their territory, and aggressive behavior towards females during the breeding season. Males also use vocalization and flight displays to attract females during courtship, with the most successful males having the largest territories and the most resources.


The breeding season for the Brazilian Ruby varies depending on the location, with some populations breeding year-round, while others have a more defined breeding season. Males begin to establish territories prior to the breeding season, defending specific areas of the forest where they know nectar sources are abundant.

Once a male establishes a territory, he will exhibit aggressive behavior towards other males, chasing them away and defending his territory vigorously. Once a female has chosen a male as a mate, she will lay a clutch of two white, egg-shaped eggs in a cup-shaped nest made of plant fibers and spider webs.

The male will not participate in nest building, but he will defend the territory and help to feed the female during incubation. The eggs hatch after approximately 15 days, and the chicks will fledge the nest after around 20 to 25 days, although they will continue to be fed by their parents for several weeks afterwards.

Demography and Populations

The Brazilian Ruby has a relatively stable population, with a range that extends across much of South America, including Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, and Ecuador. However, like many other bird species in the region, its population is threatened by habitat loss and degradation due to deforestation, logging, and mining.

Some regional populations are particularly vulnerable, with habitat loss and fragmentation reducing their range and potentially limiting their access to food sources. Conservation efforts aimed at protecting the Brazilian Ruby and its habitat have focused on establishing protected areas, promoting sustainable land use practices, and creating awareness among local communities of the importance of conserving biodiversity.

Such actions provide hope that the Brazilian Ruby, with its unique behaviors and important ecological role, will continue to thrive for generations to come.


In conclusion, the Brazilian Ruby is a bird species with a fascinating array of behaviors, from its agile flight and self-maintenance habits to its complex social

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