Bird O'clock

The Enchanting Brace’s Emerald: A Hummingbird Species Worth Knowing

Brace’s Emerald or Riccordia bracei is a rare hummingbird species found in the highlands of Costa Rica and Western Panama. It is a unique species that is distinguishable from other hummingbirds by its iridescent plumage and distinctive vocalizations.

Identification:

Field Identification:

The Brace’s Emerald is a small bird, measuring between 9 to 10 centimeters in length, with a wingspan of approximately 12 centimeters. It weighs around 5 to 7 grams.

It has a green upper body and a white underbody. The male bird’s throat is emerald green in color, and it has a brilliant metallic blue-green forehead.

Its tail is forked and greenish-brown. The female bird has a less vibrant plumage than the male, with a grayish-brown throat and a less metallic forehead.

Similar Species:

The Brace’s Emerald has a resemblance to the Violet-capped Hummingbird and the Purple-crowned Fairy. However, its vocalizations are different from other hummingbirds in the area.

Plumages:

Like most hummingbird species, the Brace’s Emerald undergoes molts to change its plumage. The male’s plumage is brighter during the breeding season, where the feathers on its throat and forehead become more iridescent and fluorescent.

During the winter months, the male bird’s plumage becomes less vibrant and more brownish. Molts:

The Brace’s Emerald undergoes a complete molt once a year after the breeding season, where it replaces its feathers entirely.

The replacement of feathers on the wing, tail, and crown occurs gradually. It takes approximately 30 days for the bird to regenerate its feathers.

It continues to look for food during this period but becomes more vulnerable to predators as it does not have full wing capabilities. In conclusion, the Brace’s Emerald is an enchanting hummingbird species with unique physical features and vocalizations.

It is essential to conserve this species due to its rarity, and efforts are being made to protect its habitat. When bird watching, it is crucial to record sightings of the Brace’s Emerald accurately to aid in conservation efforts.

It’s easy to enjoy the beauty of this bird once it is seen, and it’s another bird that serves as a reminder of the incredible diversity of nature. Systematics History:

The Brace’s Emerald (Riccordia bracei) belongs to the family Trochilidae, which includes over 300 species of hummingbirds.

The species was first described by Osbert Salvin and Frederick DuCane Godman in 1890. At the time, they classified it under the genus Chlorostilbon.

Later, phylogenetic analyses using molecular techniques resulted in the creation of a new genus, Riccordia.

Geographic Variation:

The Brace’s Emerald has a relatively limited distribution, inhabiting the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama.

Due to its restricted range, the species exhibits minimal geographic variation. Subspecies:

There are currently no subspecies of the Brace’s Emerald recognized by major ornithological organizations.

However, some researchers have proposed different subspecies based on slight differences in size, plumage, and vocalizations. For example, the “bohlsii” subspecies, named after American ornithologist Richard C.

Bohl, is recognized by some experts as inhabiting a different geographic range in the northern part of the species’ range. However, more research is needed to confirm the existence of these subspecies.

Related Species:

The Brace’s Emerald is closely related to several other hummingbird species in the genus Riccordia, including the Bronze-tailed Thornbill (Riccordia minima), Purple-bibbed Whitetip (R. bimaculata), and the Garden Emerald (R.

serpentinitica). These species share many physical traits like the green and blue plumage of the male bird and vocalizations.

Historical Changes to Distribution:

The Brace’s Emerald has a restricted distribution within the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. However, historical changes to the species’ distribution seem to have occurred relatively recently.

For example, evidence suggests that the species was not present in the highlands of Chiapas, southern Mexico during the 20th century. It is uncertain whether this is due to natural range limitations or human activity.

In recent years, the Brace’s Emerald has also been observed at lower elevations, suggesting potential range expansions due to climate change or habitat fragmentation. In conclusion, the Brace’s Emerald is a fascinating hummingbird species with a remarkable geographic range limited to the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama.

The species shows minimal geographic variation, and there are currently no recognized subspecies. The species is closely related to other species in the genus Riccordia.

There is evidence to suggest that historical changes have occurred in the species’ distribution, though more research is needed to determine the causes and implications of these changes. Overall, the Brace’s Emerald reminds us of the delicate balance necessary for the survival of many species, and highlight the importance of conservation efforts to preserve our natural world.

Habitat:

The Brace’s Emerald is exclusive to the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama, inhabiting cloud forests, borders of montane forests, shrublands, and coffee plantations. The species is typically found in mountainous regions and is known to occur at elevations up to 2,500 meters.

The Brace’s Emerald typically prefers humid, cool, and shady habitats with a significant amount of flowers that provide nectar as a food source. Movements and Migration:

The Brace’s Emerald is generally a non-migratory species, and most individuals remain within their range throughout the year.

However, there is a possibility of a slight migration within the species’ habitat range due to changes in the availability of food sources. The species’ movements appear to be primarily seeking flowering plants for nectar to feed on.

In out-of-season nectar environments, the species may move to lower elevations in search of flowering plants. It is essential to note that while the Brace’s Emerald is typically non-migratory, habitat destruction and climate change have the potential to cause displacement and migration.

If faced with severe habitat loss due to human activity or climatic events, the species may be forced to search for new areas to establish populations. Breeding and Nesting:

The Brace’s Emerald breeds throughout the year, with the breeding season occurring when nectar plants are most abundant.

The males perform courtship displays to attract females, which include hovering in front of a female while flapping their wings rapidly and vocalizing. After mating, the female will build a small cup-shaped nest on a tree branch, which can take several days to complete.

The nest is constructed using moss, fibers, and lichen, which are secured together with spider webs. The female typically lays two white eggs in the nest, measuring approximately 10mm x 7mm.

The female Brace’s Emerald incubates the eggs for about 14 days, and the chicks will hatch out of their eggs, completely naked, and with eyes closed. The female is responsible for feeding and caring for the chicks in the nest, with the chicks beginning to fledge after approximately 19 to 21 days.

Conservation Status:

The Brace’s Emerald is classified as a least concern species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, the species’ distribution is limited, and populations are susceptible to habitat destruction due to deforestation and human activity.

The species can also be impacted by the use of pesticides on nectar plants or the removal of flowering plants for agricultural purposes. The Brace’s Emerald has legal protection under the Costa Rican Wildlife Conservation Act, which prohibits the capture, trade, and possession of the species without special permits.

It is essential to preserve the species’ habitat range to ensure populations are secure and robust. In conclusion, the Brace’s Emerald is an enchanting hummingbird species known for its green and blue plumage.

The species inhabit high-elevation cloud forests, borders of montane forests, shrublands, and coffee plantations. The species is primarily non-migratory, but changes to their nectar environment may cause slight movements.

The Brace’s Emerald breeds throughout the year, with the female building a small cup-shaped nest on a tree branch and laying up to two eggs. The species is classified as a least concern species, but the species’ habitats are susceptible to destruction due to human activity, and efforts are needed to ensure the species’ populations remain robust.

Diet and Foraging:

Feeding:

The Brace’s Emerald feeds primarily on nectar from flowering plants, and it has a long, thin bill that is perfectly adapted for reaching the nectar within the deep flowers of the plants. They hover around flowers and extract nectar by probing their bills into the flowers’ openings.

Additionally, the species occasionally feeds on small insects such as spiders to supplement their diet. Hummingbirds have fast metabolisms and require continuous feeding to maintain their energy levels, so the Brace’s Emerald must feed frequently throughout the day.

Diet:

The Brace’s Emerald’s diet relies heavily on nectar, which contains a high amount of sugar that provides the species with a high amount of energy. In the absence of flowering plants, the Brace’s Emerald will pursue other food sources such as insects and small arthropods for survival.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

Hummingbirds have a high metabolic rate that is approximately 40 to 50 times that of a human’s metabolism. This high energy requirement is due to the hummingbird’s high body temperature, with the Brace’s Emerald maintaining a body temperature of approximately 41 C.

This allows the hummingbird to stay active in cool environments while conserving energy by switching off their body warmth when the temperatures are high. Sounds and Vocal Behavior:

Vocalization:

The Brace’s Emerald has various vocalizations that include high-pitched calls, whistles, chirps, and clicking sounds.

Vocalizations are used by the species for communication, locating sources of food, and initiating mating. Males are known to produce high-pitched calls during breeding season as part of their courtship display to attract females.

The calls are often loud and persistent, contributing to the characteristic soundscapes of the species’ high-altitude habitat. Apart from its vocalizations, the Brace’s Emerald also uses its body language and movements in its courtship ritual.

Males hover in front of the female with rapid wing beats and vocalize to get her attention. The courtship ritual helps the Braces Emerald to mate and exhibits its physical features to better attract mates.

In summary, the Brace’s Emerald feed primarily on nectar, using their long bill to extract nectar from deep flowers and supplement their diet when necessary with small insects and arthropods. Hummingbirds have high metabolisms, and the Braces Emerald maintains a high body temperature for efficient energy requirements.

The species is known for its high-pitched vocalizations that include calls, whistles, chirps, and clicking sounds. The vocalizations serve various purposes, such as communication and mating rituals.

Understanding the diet and behavior of the Braces Emerald helps us appreciate this magnificent species and highlights the need to conserve their habitat. Behavior:

Locomotion:

The Brace’s Emerald exhibits impressive locomotion abilities, with the muscular power of the bird allowing them to hover for extended periods in front of flowers and feeders.

The species’ wings can beat up to 80 times per second, allowing them to maintain a stationary position in mid-air. The species is also proficient when it comes to flying, with a reputation for being agile flyers.

Hummingbirds are known to hover, fly backward or forward, and change their direction quickly to avoid predators. Their wings beat in a figure-eight pattern, allowing them to move in multiple directions and maintain their balance efficiently.

Self Maintenance:

The Brace’s Emerald spends an ample amount of time preening its plumage. Preening involves rearranging their feathers to maintain their insulating properties, preventing any dirt, debris, and parasites from sticking to the feathers.

The species is known to be meticulous when it comes to self-grooming, frequently cleaning its feathers to ensure their feathers are in excellent condition. Agonistic Behavior:

Agonistic behavior is witnessed when two males are competing for a female or for territory to breed or forage.

The Brace’s Emerald exhibits such behavior, and they often chase other birds intruding on what they consider their territory. This includes other males or even larger species of birds.

The species also defends their food resources and flowers from other hummingbirds. Sexual Behavior:

During courtship, males employ various methods to attract females, such as producing high-pitched vocal calls, swift movements, and complicated aerial maneuvers.

Once selected by the female, they then perform mating rituals that involve a variety of movements and sounds. The males may perform flight displays where they fly rapidly around the female, creating a loud humming sound while fanning their tail feathers.

Breeding:

The Brace’s Emerald breeds throughout the year, with courtship displays occurring during times when nectar-producing plants are abundant. The male’s courtship display typically entails various aerial maneuvers and loud vocalizations to attract females.

Once the female has been selected, mating occurs, and the female begins the process of building the nest. The female constructs a small, cup-shaped nest using soft materials that she adds onto a tree branch.

The nest is suspended using spider web silk, which helps prevent it from falling off the branch. The female lays on average two eggs in the nest at intervals of two days.

The eggs are white, and both parents are responsible for incubating the eggs until they hatch. Demography and Populations:

The Brace’s Emerald is listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

However, the species’ populations face threats due to loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation. It is facing habitat loss due to deforestation, climate change, and human encroachment on their habitat range.

Conservation efforts have been put in place to ensure their population remains stable, focusing mainly on the protection of their habitats and encouraging replanting of nectar-producing plants. In conclusion, the Brace’s Emerald is known for its impressive locomotion and self-maintenance abilities, and the species exhibits agonistic behavior when competing for food and females.

The species breeds throughout the year, with courtship displays occurring during abundant nectar-producing plant cycles. During courtship, males attract females by performing high-pitched vocal calls and swift movements.

The species is listed as a least concern species but faces threats due to habitat loss and fragmentation. It emphasizes the importance of conservation efforts and raises awareness of the potential threats to hummingbird species.

In conclusion, the Brace’s Emerald is a fascinating hummingbird species characterized by vocalizations, impressive locomotion abilities, and outstanding self-maintenance skills. The species feeds primarily on nectar, supplements its diet with small insects, and maintains high energy levels with its fast metabolism.

During courtship, males display an array of aerial maneuvers and vocalizations to attract females. The species breeds throughout the year, and conservation efforts are essential to address habitat loss and fragmentation to ensure their populations remain stable.

Understanding the Brace’s Emerald’s behavior and habitat requirements highlights the importance of biodiversity conservation, as species such as this are crucial components of well-functioning ecosystems.

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