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Flight of the Feathered Acrobats: Unveiling the Behaviors of Bronze-tailed Plumeleteers

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, also known as the Chalybura urochrysia, is a small, vibrant bird that is found in Central and South America. This bird is easily recognizable due to its colorful plumage and iridescent feathers.

In this article, we will explore the identification of the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, distinguishing it from similar species, and their molts.


Field Identification

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is approximately 3.5 inches long and weighs around 4 grams. It has an olive-green back, a white belly, and a blue-green throat.

The bird’s wings are short but broad, and it has a bronzed-colored, fan-shaped tail. One of the most unique features of the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is the pinkish tinge present on its back and wings.

The female of the species has a slightly duller plumage than the male.

Similar Species

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer can be mistaken for a few other species of hummingbirds, especially the Green-crowned Brilliant and the Steely-vented Hummingbird. Still, the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer has a distinguishing feature that separates it from these hummingbirds.

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer has a coppery-colored tail that has a sharply marked tip, whereas the tail of the Steely-vented Hummingbird is entirely bronze. Additionally, the Steely-vented Hummingbird has a somewhat straight and blunt bill, but the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer has a curved beak that is longer than the head.


The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is a vividly-colored bird that fascinates birdwatchers and researchers alike. Understanding the bird’s plumage can be helpful in distinguishing it from other hummingbird species.

The juvenile birds have a slightly duller plumage than the adults. The male has a distinctive iridescent crown, and its forehead, gorget, and wings shine golden-green.

The female of the species has a less vivid plumage and is typically grayish-green on top and whitish-grey below.


Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer birds undergo one complete molt per year, typically after the breeding season. This means that they replace all their feathers to prepare for the upcoming breeding season.

The molting begins with the replacement of the inner primaries, followed by the outer primaries and secondary feathers. Examination of the bird’s molt patterns can help to identify the breeding season, as the bright coloring of the male’s feathers is typically found during the breeding season.


In conclusion, the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is a fascinating bird found in Central and South America. Its unique coloration and iridescence make it an exciting bird to observe and study.

With a better understanding of its identification, distinguishing it from similar species, and their molts, birdwatchers can more confidently identify and appreciate this stunning bird. of your article.

Systematics History

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer belongs to the hummingbird family Trochilidae and is classified under the genus Chalybura. The systematics of the hummingbird family and closely related species have been revised over the decades.

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, specifically, has undergone revisions in its classification due to advances in technology and research.

Geographic Variation

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is found in Central and South America, which includes Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. While this bird is widespread, it is usually found in specific regions.

Several factors, such as geographical barriers, availability of resources, and climate, contribute to the limited distribution range of the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer.


The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer comprises four subspecies that can be distinguished by their geographic distribution and plumage variation. The following are the known subspecies:


Chalybura urochrysia urochrysia This subspecies is found in the Andean regions of Venezuela and Colombia. The male has a bright green head and a blue-green throat, while the female is olive-green with a white belly.

2. Chalybura urochrysia chloropygia This subspecies is found in Central Colombia.

The male has a darker green head than the urochrysia subspecies, but both have a bronzy-green colored tail. 3.

Chalybura urochrysia frontalis This subspecies is found in the eastern Andean slopes of Ecuador and Peru. The male has a brownish-green head and a somewhat more bronzy-colored tail than the other subspecies.

4. Chalybura urochrysia sapphirina This subspecies is found in southeastern Ecuador, where the bird has a longer beak than the other subspecies.

Related Species

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is part of the Chalybura genus, which consists of seven species of hummingbirds. These species are native to Central and South America and are similar in appearance and size to the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer.

One of the closely related species is the Green-crowned Brilliant, which has a green crown and dark purple throat; another species, the Blue-tailed Emerald, has a blue tail and a green crown with a white postocular line.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Hummingbirds, like many bird species, face several threats, such as habitat loss, hunting for food, pesticides, and disease. These threats have led to declines in their population numbers and range.

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer has not been immune to these threats. The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer’s range has experienced changes over time due to human activities and other environmental factors.

For instance, reports suggest that this bird’s range used to extend further south, to Bolivia and northeastern Argentina. However, this range has since become discontinuous, likely due to habitat destruction and climate change.

Additionally, humankind’s impact on the bird’s habitat has led to changes in the distribution of the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. In Colombia, for instance, deforestation and the conversion of forested land into agricultural use have resulted in a loss of forest reserves, decreasing the range of the bird.

In Ecuador and Peru, the expansion of the oil industry and mining activities has led to habitat alteration, putting the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and other bird species at risk.


The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is a unique member of the hummingbird family, known for its vibrant colors and distinctive tail. With four known subspecies, this bird species is distributed across Central and South America and has undergone changes in its range over time.

However, threats of habitat loss, hunting, and disease have put the bird populations under significant pressure. Understanding the subspecies variation and geographic distribution of the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and the related species can be helpful for conservation efforts and the effective management of their habitats.

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The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is commonly found in humid, lowland and foothill forests, at elevations between 300 to 1,500 meters above sea level. Within its range, this species is visible in several habitats, including rainforests, cloud forests, and riparian forests.

This bird occupies the mid to upper-strata of forests, which means that they are primarily associated with tall trees that provide plenty of food resources. The preferred food resources for the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer includes nectar, insects, and arthropods such as spiders and mites.

They are particularly seen feeding from Heliconia plants and other large flowers, preferring to forage high up in the canopy. They are known to exhibit territoriality, defending patches of flowers from similar species or from members of the same species.

Movements and Migration

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer exhibits a non-migratory pattern, meaning that it does not undertake long-distance seasonal movements as some other bird species do. However, some populations of the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer are known to exhibit some altitudinal movements between the breeding season and non-breeding periods.

For instance, in Colombia, this species is commonly observed at elevations between 800 to 1,500 meters in the non-breeding season, and as low as 300 meters above sea level during the breeding season. Altitudinal movements are crucial for hummingbirds, as this helps them to cope with the changes in food resources and other environmental conditions subject to a seasonal variation.

In addition, hummingbirds are also greatly influenced by temperature, precipitation, and other weather phenomena. Some species of hummingbirds can feed early in the morning when temperatures are low, while others begin feeding much later.

Despite their non-migratory status, the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer has exhibited changes in their range due to the impacts of human-induced habitat alteration and climate change. As a result, the bird’s observed range can shift and expand into new regions or contract, particularly when habitats become unsuitable to support their survival due to changes in climate.

To monitor the movements and distribution of the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and other bird species, researchers use several methods, such as ringing, radio-telemetry, and band-returns. These methods allow for the tracking of several vital life-cycle stages, including migration, survival rate, and reproduction rate, and can provide important information on habitats and ecological processes.

Conservation Strategies

Conservation strategies aimed at preserving the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and other hummingbird species focus on the protection of their habitats by reducing deforestation, mining, and other activities that impinge on the areas they occupy. These strategies also require monitoring of the bird populations, reducing hunting and taking measures to control the proliferation of invasive species that threaten the bird’s survival.

In the long term, conservation efforts focused on habitat management and education aimed at raising awareness of the importance of the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and its ecological importance may be vital to the bird’s survival. These measures can help to prevent habitat fragmentation, which can cause the loss of genetic diversity and, in extreme cases, lead to the local extinction of this species.


The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is a remarkable bird species recognized for its unique plumage, distinctive tail, and behavior. The bird is primarily found in humid forested habitats and is known to exhibit territoriality, defending patches of flowers from four different subspecies across its range.

While not known for long-distance migratory travels, the bird does show some altitudinal movements. The bird’s habitat has undergone significant changes due to human activities ranging from deforestation to climate change, leading to changes in the range of the bird.

To ensure the bird’s survival, conservation strategies must focus on the protection of its habitat and monitoring of the populations to ensure the achievement of conservation goals. of your article.

Diet and Foraging


Bronze-tailed Plumeleteers are active fliers that spend most of their time foraging for food in vegetation. They are primary nectar feeders, with their long bills allowing them to reach deep into the corolla of flowers, such as Heliconia, that provide them with a rich source of nectar.

They hover in front of flowers while flicking their tongues up to pressure the nectar out of the flower. In addition to nectar, they feed on small insects, spiders, and other arthropods that they catch from the air or pluck from leaves.

Bronze-tailed Plumeleteers often occupy the mid to upper canopy, making it difficult to observe their foraging behavior. Many of their feeding habits are inferred from the morphology of their bills, tongues, and digestive tracts.

Given their high metabolic rate, they feed frequently and require a lot of energy from their food. They evade predators and fly very swiftly, necessitating access to high amounts of glucose-rich nectar.


The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer’s diet contains a considerable proportion of nectar intake, and it heavily influences their foraging and migration behaviors. They prefer to feed from red or orange-colored flowers and have been seen perching near flowers they have visited earlier.

The tongue of the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is lightly divided at the tip, allowing them to collect nectar by trapping it in grooves along their tongue surface as they flick it rapidly. Thanks to their excellent aerodynamic capacity, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteers can feed at flowers located high above the canopy, giving them access to abundant nectar sources.

They also consume insects, such as small beetles, flies, and other winged arthropods. Although depending on arthropods for protein, the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is mostly dependent on nectar for its energy needs.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer’s flight activity relies heavily on an active metabolic process and a precise temperature control mechanism. Hummingbirds are unique in their ability to regulate their body temperature independently of the environment.

As a result, they can endure physiologically demanding activities such as flight without overheating. The hummingbird’s metabolic rate is much higher than other birds, including their basal metabolic rate, which is essential to remain active throughout the day consistently.

Their high metabolic rate is supported by the ability to break down glucose rapidly, which is a significant fuel source in their diet. This results in an energy conversion rate that could be upwards of 30 times higher than other bird species of comparable sizes.

However, this high metabolic rate has consequences – Bronze-tailed Plumeleteers consume more than twice their equivalent weight in nectar and other feedings each day to maintain their energy requirements. The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer uses specialized feathers to help to regulate the temperature, with their bodies always operating at a higher temperature than the environment.

These feathers, structurally different from other feathers, help to trap heat and dissipate heat when necessary. The precise temperature regulation of the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer allows them to undertake their foraging activities without slowing down or reducing their metabolic rate.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer has a rich vocal vocabulary, consisting of different sounds that they use for communication, including during mate attraction and territorial defense. They are well known for their vocalizations that sound like high-pitched chirps, clicks, and whistles.

The sounds produced by the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer are crucial in identifying individual birds and often coincide with specific behaviors. During the breeding season, males will often perch on exposed branches and produce a loud, repeated trill to attract a mate.

The call has a distinctive quality that is highly audible and can be attributed to their high metabolic rates and a unique syringeal structure that allows them to produce their calls with such speed. The trills are often distinctive, with some males having calls that are uniquely identify to them.

In addition to calling, the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer also uses a series of body movements and displays to communicate with other birds. For instance, when challenged by another bird for a feeding territory, they engage in displays, including heightening their feathers and even using exaggerated head bobs and tail fanning to lure the challenger away.


The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer exhibits unique feeding and foraging behaviors associated with high metabolic rates and unique adaptations to regulate their temperature. Their diet is primarily reliant on nectar feeding, but they supplement it with small insects and arthropods to supplement their protein needs.

Additionally, the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer has a rich vocal vocabulary, which is integral to their communication and social dynamics. The vocalizations can be used to identify individual birds during different behaviors, such as mate attraction, territorial defense, and other interactions.

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The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is a highly active and acrobatic flyer that is exceptionally maneuverable. The bird can hover or fly at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, which is an essential trait when competing for resources with other hummingbirds.

They also exhibit unique hovering behaviors, such as flying backwards and upside down, making them one of the most acrobatic birds. The bird’s unique morphology allows it to hover and fly steadily in one place, meaning that they can feed from flowers while maintaining a fixed position in mid-air.

These characteristics are possible due to an efficient wingbeat mechanism, ranging from 70-200 beats per second and the unique feather structure of their wings.

Self Maintenance

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, like other hummingbirds, has to balance its high metabolic rate with rest and self-maintenance. They spend a considerable amount of time grooming their feathers and preening, with the specialized feathers structure contributing to the bird’s temperature regulation.

Agonistic Behavior

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer exhibits territorial behavior, especially during the breeding season, and will defend patches of flowers from other birds. They will often chase other species or try to outmaneuver birds of the same species that approach their food sources or mates.

Sexual Behavior

The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer males exhibit unique courtship behaviors, such as courtship flights, where they fly upwards and then rapidly make a nose dive while clicking rapidly with their wings. Additionally, males often exhibit vigorous singing behavior to attract females, with the songs consisting of repeated trills and whistles.


The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer typically breeds during the

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