Bird O'clock

The Jewel of the Rainforest: All about the Blue-Throated Goldentail Hummingbird

The Blue-throated Goldentail, also known by its scientific name Chlorestes eliciae, is a stunning bird species found in the tropical regions of Central and South America. This jewel of a bird is a delight to watch, with its shimmering emerald green plumage and striking blue throat.

In this article, we will take a closer look at this bird species, covering its identification, plumages, and molts.

Identification

Field Identification: The Blue-throated Goldentail is a small hummingbird, measuring about 8 cm in length and weighing just 3 grams. Males have a brilliant emerald green plumage on their upperparts and head, while their underparts are golden yellow.

They also have a distinctive blue throat that is visible when they are perched or flying. Females are less colorful, with a duller green upperparts and have a pale gray throat.

Both male and female have a slightly curved black bill and a broad tail with white tips. Similar Species: The Blue-throated Goldentail can be confused with other small green hummingbirds, such as the Green Thorntail and the Green-crowned Brilliant.

However, the Blue-throated Goldentail can be distinguished by its blue throat and golden-yellow belly. The Green Thorntail has a shorter bill and shorter tail while the Green-crowned Brilliant has a green crown and lacks a blue throat.

Plumages

The Blue-throated Goldentail has a distinctive plumage that makes it easy to identify. However, it also undergoes molts and changes in its plumage during its lifetime.

As juveniles, both male and female Blue-throated Goldentails have duller, olive-green plumage. It takes about a year before their adult plumage develops fully.

Molts

Like most bird species, the Blue-throated Goldentail undergoes molts- a process of shedding old feathers and growing new ones. Males undergo a complete molt each year after the breeding season, while females do not molt as heavily.

The Blue-throated Goldentail’s molting process is different from most birds in that it replaces its feathers in patches, rather than all at once. This means that their appearance can differ depending on the timing of the molt.

During the molt, males may lose their blue throats temporarily, and females may have a mottled appearance as they replace their feathers.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Blue-throated Goldentail is a beautiful bird species that can be found in the tropical regions of Central and South America. Its striking blue throat and emerald-green plumage make it a delight to watch.

With this article, we hope that we have provided you with a better understanding of how to identify this bird species and its molting patterns.

Systematics History

The Blue-throated Goldentail has gone through a number of taxonomic changes over the years. It was first described by the French ornithologist Ren Primevre Lesson in 1829 as Trochilus eliciae.

However, it was later moved to the genus Chlorestes, which is now widely accepted.

Geographic Variation

The Blue-throated Goldentail has a wide distribution across Central and South America, where it can be found in a variety of habitats ranging from rainforests to montane forests. Within this range, there is some geographic variation in the plumage of the bird, with populations in different regions showing slight differences in coloration.

Subspecies

There are eight recognized subspecies of the Blue-throated Goldentail, each with its own slight variation in coloration and distribution. These subspecies are:

– C.

e. eliciae: Found in the mountains of Costa Rica and Western Panama, this subspecies has a more yellowish-green plumage than other subspecies.

– C. e.

aureus: Found in the Talamancan Mountains of Costa Rica, this subspecies has a more golden color to its underparts than C. e.

eliciae.

– C.

e. luteocephalus: Found in eastern Panama and northwest Colombia, this subspecies has a more yellowish-green head and body than other subspecies.

– C. e.

gemmeus: Found in the Andes from western Venezuela to northern Peru, this subspecies has a more bluish green color and a less defined blue throat than other subspecies.

– C.

e. coeruleus: Found in the eastern Andes from central Colombia to northern Bolivia, this subspecies has a brighter blue throat than other subspecies.

– C. e.

chlorolaemus: Found in the northern Andes of Colombia and Ecuador, this subspecies has a more golden-yellow color to its underparts than other subspecies.

– C.

e. smaragdulus: Found in the lowlands of Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, this subspecies has a more olive-green coloration to its upperparts and lacks the blue throat of other subspecies.

– C. e.

ornatus: Found in the Yucatn Peninsula, this subspecies has a slightly larger body size and a more golden yellow color to its underparts than other subspecies.

Related Species

The Blue-throated Goldentail is part of the Trochilidae family, which includes over 300 species of hummingbirds. Within this family, the Blue-throated Goldentail belongs to the subfamily Lesbiinae, which includes several other species of small green hummingbirds.

The Blue-throated Goldentail’s closest relatives are the White-tailed Goldenthroat (Polytmus guainumbi) and the Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird (Lepidopyga lilliae). These species have similar plumage patterns to the Blue-throated Goldentail and are often found in similar habitats.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Blue-throated Goldentail’s range has remained relatively stable over the years, but there have been some changes in its distribution due to habitat loss and fragmentation. In particular, the species has been affected by deforestation and the conversion of its habitat for agriculture and human settlement.

In some areas, the creation of coffee plantations has provided suitable habitat for the Blue-throated Goldentail, and the species has adapted to these new environments. However, in other areas, the fragmentation of forests has resulted in isolated populations that are more vulnerable to local extinction.

Conservation efforts aimed at preserving the species’ habitat have been initiated in some areas, such as Costa Rica and Colombia, where the Blue-throated Goldentail is classified as a species of least concern. Nonetheless, continued protection of their habitat is necessary for the survival of these beautiful hummingbirds.

In conclusion, the Blue-throated Goldentail is a stunning hummingbird species that is found across Central and South America. There are eight recognized subspecies that differ slightly in coloration and distribution.

The species has been negatively impacted by habitat loss and fragmentation, and conservation efforts are necessary to ensure its survival.

Habitat

The Blue-throated Goldentail is a neotropical species found in Central and South America. It is widely distributed across these regions, occurring in a variety of habitats.

The species is commonly found in forested areas, where it inhabits the understory and edges of forests. It prefers areas with ample vegetation cover and an abundant supply of nectar-producing flowers for feeding.

The species is also known to thrive in human-altered habitats, such as coffee plantations and gardens.

Movements and Migration

The Blue-throated Goldentail is generally non-migratory, with populations usually remaining in the same area all year round. However, during the non-breeding season, some populations of the species may make altitudinal movements to lower elevations in response to changes in food availability and environmental conditions.

Individuals of this species are known for their territorial behavior and active defense of their feeding and breeding areas. Males form small territories around nesting sites, which they defend fiercely from other males and birds.

During the mating season, males perform elaborate aerial displays to attract females, using their iridescent plumage and distinctive calls to woo potential mates.

Breeding

The breeding season of the Blue-throated Goldentail varies depending on the location, with some populations breeding throughout the year, while others breed at specific times. For instance, populations in Costa Rica and Panama breed during the rainy season from May to August.

In Brazil, breeding occurs from September to January, while in Colombia, breeding may occur year-round.

During the breeding season, males establish territories around suitable nesting sites and aggressively defend them from other males.

Females build small cup-shaped nests, which they attach to a horizontal branch or stick. The nests are made of soft plant fibers bound together with spider silk and covered with moss or lichen for camouflage.

The female lays two eggs, which she incubates for about 15 to 17 days.

Diet

The Blue-throated Goldentail feeds primarily on nectar from flowering plants. The species has a long slender bill, which it uses to extract nectar from the flowers.

The tongue of the bird has a brush-like tip that helps it to lap up the nectar. The species is also known to feed on small insects, which they capture while in flight or by gleaning from foliage.

Conservation

The Blue-throated Goldentail is considered a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, like most bird species in the neotropics, the species is threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation.

The destruction of forests and conversion of habitat for agriculture and human settlement are major threats to the species’ survival.

Conservation efforts aimed at preserving the species’ habitat have been initiated in some areas, such as Costa Rica and Colombia, where the Blue-throated Goldentail is classified as a species of least concern. In addition, bird-watching ecotourism has become increasingly popular in countries like Ecuador, where the species is a major target for bird watchers.

In conclusion, the Blue-throated Goldentail is a stunning hummingbird species that relies on the understory and edges of forests for survival. It is primarily a nectar feeder, but also feeds on small insects.

The species is non-migratory but may make altitudinal movements to lower elevations during the non-breeding season.

Conservation efforts are necessary to protect the species’ habitat and ensure its survival.

Diet and Foraging

The Blue-throated Goldentail is primarily a nectar feeder, using their long, slender bills to extract nectar from flowers. The species is also known to feed on small insects, which they capture while in flight or glean from foliage.

Feeding

The Blue-throated Goldentail has a high metabolism and requires a lot of energy to sustain its active lifestyle. The species feeds throughout the day and often visits flowers in a specific area repeatedly to maximize their nectar intake.

The bird’s brush-like tongue allows it to lap up the nectar efficiently. The tongue’s tip is split into two parts, which can open and close to form a tube-like structure to suck up the nectar.

Diet

The Blue-throated Goldentail’s diet consists primarily of nectar from a variety of plants. The species has adapted to feed on flowers with long and narrow corollas, which other hummingbirds cannot access.

They are known to feed on flowering plants such as Gesneriaceae, Lobeliaceae, Melastomataceae, Rubiaceae, Styracaceae, and Verbenaceae. The species feeds on small insects, such as flies, spiders, and mosquitoes, which they capture while in flight or glean from foliage.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Blue-throated Goldentail has a very high metabolic rate and spends a significant amount of energy when foraging for food. To conserve energy, the species enters a torpor state at night, during which their metabolic rate slows down to conserve energy.

During torpor, the bird’s body temperature drops significantly, which allows it to conserve energy while staying protected from predators. The species is also known to use metabolic water, derived from the breakdown of food, to conserve water in their hot and arid habitats.

Sounds and Vocal

Behavior

The Blue-throated Goldentail is known for its distinctive calls and songs, which play an essential role in communication and courtship between males and females.

Vocalization

The species has a variety of vocalizations, which include a high-pitched chirping sound and a series of repeated notes, which are used for territorial displays, courtship, and warning calls. Males perform an elaborate aerial dance to attract a mate, accompanying the display with sounds that resemble a buzzy “chip.” The species also has a harsh, guttural “chuck” call used as an alarm when they detect intruders in their territory.

In conclusion, the Blue-throated Goldentail relies primarily on nectar for its diet, and has adapted to feed on flowers with long and narrow corollas. The species is equipped with metabolic and temperature-regulating capabilities to help them conserve energy and survive in their hot and arid habitat.

Their vocalizations play an essential role in communication and courtship between individuals of this species. Understanding the diet and foraging behaviors and vocalizations of the Blue-throated Goldentail can aid in the conservation efforts necessary to protect this beautiful species.

Behavior

The Blue-throated Goldentail is an active and territorial bird species that engages in a variety of behaviors for self-maintenance, reproduction, and defense against potential threats.

Locomotion

The Blue-throated Goldentail is an active flier, capable of hovering, upward acceleration, and fast-forward flight. They use their wings to generate lift and control their body position during flight.

Their small size and agility allow them to fly through tight spaces and navigate complex environments with ease. They are also known for their quick and sudden flight maneuvers, which they use to evade predators and maintain their territories.

Self-Maintenance

The Blue-throated Goldentail spends a significant amount of time maintaining their feathers and body. They use their bills to preen and remove dirt and debris from their feathers.

The species also bathes regularly, often in areas like waterfalls, where the water allows them to clean their plumage efficiently.

Agonistic

Behavior

The Blue-throated Goldentail is highly territorial and engages in aggressive behavior towards conspecifics or potentially threatening individuals.

When defending their territories, males display a variety of aerial maneuvers, including diving, swooping, and chasing away other males. They also use vocalizations and body displays, such as flapping their wings and spreading their tail feathers, to defend their territory against intruders.

Sexual

Behavior

During the breeding season, male Blue-throated Goldentails perform elaborate aerial displays to attract females. They will hover in the air, flapping their wings rapidly and producing a series of distinctive sounds to entice potential mates.

Once a female is interested, the male will fly closer and make a series of calls before landing on a branch and displaying their vibrant plumage. Females evaluate males based on their vibrant colors and their ability to provide food resources for their offspring.

Breeding

The Blue-throated Goldentail’s breeding season varies throughout its range, with some populations breeding year-round, while others breed during the rainy season. Males establish territories around suitable nesting sites, which they defend aggressively from other males.

Females build small cup-shaped nests out of soft plant fibers bound together with spider silk and covered with moss or lichen for camouflage.

The female lays two eggs, which she incubates for about 15 to 17 days.

During incubation, the male may provide food resources to the female, or they may take turns incubating the eggs. Once the eggs hatch, both parents feed and care for their young.

Juvenile Blue-throated Goldentails are usually independent within a few weeks and become sexually mature within a year.

Demography and Populations

The Blue-throated Goldentail is considered a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, like most bird species in the neotropics, the species is threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation.

The destruction of forests and conversion of habitat for agriculture and human settlement are major threats to the species’ survival.

Conservation efforts aimed at preserving the species’ habitat have been initiated in some areas, such as Costa Rica and Colombia, where the Blue-throated Goldentail is classified as a species of least concern. The species is also supported by ecotourism in some areas, as bird watchers seek to observe the stunning flying displays and unique vocalizations of this fascinating species.

In conclusion, the Blue-throated Goldentail is an active and territorial bird species that engages in a variety of behaviors for self-maintenance, reproduction, and defense against predators. They are highly adapted to their habitat and have developed a unique set of behaviors and physical adaptations to help them thrive in their environment.

The species is considered a species of least concern; however, it is threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation, and conservations efforts are necessary to ensure their survival.

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