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The Tiny Wonder of Nature: A Comprehensive Guide to the Dot-eared Coquette Hummingbird

Have you ever heard of the Dot-eared Coquette? This stunning bird, also known by its scientific name Lophornis gouldii, is a tiny species of hummingbird found in South America.

Despite its small size, this bird has made a big impact on the world of ornithology. In this article, we will explore the identification, plumage, and molts of the Dot-eared Coquette, together with a glimpse of their habitat and behavior.

Identification

Field Identification

Adult male Dot-eared Coquettes measure between 7 and 8 cm and weigh only 2 to 3 grams. They have an iridescent bright green plumage, a straight black bill, and a distinctive black dot behind their ears.

They also have white underparts and a forked tail with white tips. Females, on the other hand, are slightly larger and have a duller green plumage.

Like male birds, they also have a black dot behind their ears and a white underbelly. Juvenile birds have a similar plumage to adult females but without the black dot.

Similar Species

Though these birds are easily recognizable due to their distinctive ear dot, they may be confused with other species of coquette, including the Black-throated Coquette and the Chestnut-breasted Coquette. The Black-throated Coquette has a purple crown and black throat, while the Chestnut-breasted Coquette is larger and has a chestnut breast.

However, the Dot-eared Coquette remains the only species with a black ear dot, making it the most easily identifiable among its fellow coquettes.

Plumages

The Dot-eared Coquette has two plumages. The first, which appears on chicks, is known as the nestling plumage.

Simple and mostly dull brown, the nestling plumage cannot be differentiated by sex. Once the bird attains adulthood, it sheds its nestling feathers and dons its definitive adult plumage.

Adult Dot-eared Coquettes molt twice a year. Molting is the process of shedding feathers and growing new ones – this helps the bird to maintain its optimal appearance for flight.

The first molt occurs after breeding season, while the second molt occurs during the non-breeding season, just before the bird migrates. During the molt, the birds may lose their distinctive iridescence, but it usually returns after a few weeks.

Behavior and

Habitat

These birds are generally found in Upper Amazonia, primarily in Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, and Guyana. They prefer to inhabit humid and evergreen forests, where they can feed on the nectar of flowering trees, such as Clusia and Bombax.

They also feed on insects and spiders, making them omnivorous in their diet. During breeding season, males display intricate and unique courtship dances to attract a mate.

Even as the smallest sized species of hummingbird, the Dot-eared Coquette is fiercely territorial – males actively defend their territory from others and will chase them away aggressively. Though these birds are generally solitary, in international migration, they will sometimes fly in groups.

Conclusion

The Dot-eared Coquette is a species of hummingbird that continues to amaze ornithologists and bird enthusiasts alike. From their iridescent green plumage to their unique black ear dot, these birds are truly one-of-a-kind.

By highlighting their physical features, plumages, and behaviors, we hope to have given readers a glimpse of the Dot-eared Coquette’s fascinating world. With the right identification tools, you can easily spot these birds anywhere in their natural range.

So, the next time you are in the Amazonian forests, keep your binoculars handy and experience the beauty of these tiny wonders of nature.

Systematics History

The Dot-eared Coquette (Lophornis gouldii) was first discovered by John Gould in 1846 during his expedition in Brazil. The scientific name, Lophornis, is derived from the Greek words ‘lophos’ meaning crest, and ‘ornis’ meaning bird.

It refers to the tufts of feathers on top of the bird’s head. The specific epithet gouldii is in honor of John Gould, who described the species.

Geographic Variation

The Dot-eared Coquette has considerable geographic variation. In general, birds from the northern range have brighter and more iridescent green plumage as compared to southern ones.

The northern birds have purplish-blue crowns in males, while the southern ones have deep blue crowns. Females from the northern range have a slightly greener tinge to their plumage than those from the southern range.

The possible factors leading to this variation are likely the differences in habitat and genetic isolation.

Subspecies

There are currently six recognized subspecies of the Dot-eared Coquette, based on geographical distribution. 1) L.

g. grayi: Found in the northwest Amazon basin and western Guianas.

2) L. g.

nitidus: Found in the eastern Guianas

3) L. g.

gouldii: Found in northeast Brazil and northeast Amazon basin. 4) L.

g. chalybeus: Found in eastern Brazil.

5) L. g.

audax: Found in the southern range including parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. 6) L.

g. holosericeus: Found in southeastern Brazil.

Related Species

The Dot-eared Coquette belongs to the Trochilidae family, which comprises hummingbirds. Among the five Lophornis species, the Dot-eared Coquette is most closely related to the Stripe-breasted Starthroat (Heliomaster squamosus) on the basis of genetic and morphological evidence.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Dot-eared Coquette’s distribution has undergone some changes over the years. In recent years, the birds have been observed in areas outside their traditional range, indicating that they may be expanding their distribution.

Climate change or increased habitat availability could be the underlying causes of this expansion.

However, historical deforestation and habitat destruction in the northern Amazon basin may have affected the range and population of the Dot-eared Coquette.

The evergreen forests are vital to the survival of Dot-eared Coquette as it provides shelter, nesting sites, and feeding areas.

Moreover, illegal wildlife trade, which is more rampant in the southern range, has also been reported for hummingbird species, including Dot-eared Coquette.

The ecological imbalance caused by such human activities poses a significant threat to the Dot-eared Coquette’s survival.

Conservation Efforts

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the Dot-eared Coquette as a species of ‘Least Concern’ due to its stable population and range. However, the conservation status of this species may need to be reviewed in light of the changing distribution trends.

Many organizations are working to protect the Amazon basin’s forests and conserve its wildlife, including the Dot-eared Coquette. Several individuals have set up eco-tourism initiatives in Brazil and other countries that provide a means of sustainable income while preserving hummingbird habitats, such as agroforestry gardens and birdwatching tours.

Another important step in the conservation of Dot-eared Coquette is to understand the genetic diversity of different subspecies, which can assist in making better conservation management decisions. Many organizations are working on this, and their efforts can help conserve the Dot-eared Coquette for generations to come.

In conclusion, the Dot-eared Coquette is a fascinating hummingbird species with a rich evolutionary history. With the right conservation efforts, we can ensure that this beautiful bird continues to thrive for generations to come.

Habitat

The Dot-eared Coquette is a species of hummingbirds that prefers to inhabit humid evergreen forests. They prefer primary forests, but they can also adapt to secondary forests, patches of forest, and even gardens with good vegetation coverage.

These birds are primarily found in the lowlands of the Amazon basin.

The hummingbirds feed on the nectar of flowering trees, including Clusia and Bombax, and also on insects and spiders.

They feed mainly by hovering and probing the flowers’ bases with their long bills to extract nectar. They are also known to feed on insects, including mosquitoes, flies, and ants.

Movements and Migration

Mostly, the Dot-eared Coquette is a non-migratory species and stays within its home range. However, there have been some rare occurrences of the bird migrating to other locations outside of its typical range.

These migration events may be driven by a scarcity of food or habitat variations, among other factors.

During the breeding season, these birds become more territorial, and the males display elaborate courtship dances to attract females.

Their breeding season is synchronized with the rainy season and varies in different regions. The breeding season usually starts in October or November and runs through April or May, depending on the region.

The Dot-eared Coquette has a low reproductive rate, with females only producing two eggs per clutch. The incubation period ranges between 16 and 19 days.

The chick’s nestling period is around 25 days, during which they are entirely dependent on their mother for food. After fledging, the young birds are also dependent on their mother for an additional week or two.

Conservation Concerns

The Dot-eared Coquette is classified as a species of ‘Least Concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, this classification may need to be continuously reviewed due to changing habitat and climate conditions that may affect their population numbers.

The Dot-eared Coquette’ most significant conservation threat is habitat loss and degradation caused by deforestation in the Amazon basin. The bird’s dependence on primary forests, which often contain high-quality nectar sources, makes them highly vulnerable to land-use changes.

Agriculture, logging, mining, and road construction are putting pressure on the natural habitat, and they pose a significant threat to the survival of this bird species. Furthermore, the illegal wildlife trade affects the survival of hummingbirds, including the Dot-eared Coquette.

Hummingbirds are highly valuable in the bird trade, especially in the international pet industry. These birds are captured and sold as pets, often inhumanely, leading to a significant decrease of hummingbird populations in the wild.

Conservation Efforts

Several conservation initiatives are being implemented to protect the Amazon’s primary forests and preserve the habitats of the Dot-eared Coquette. These initiatives range from government policies aimed at land-use planning and habitat conservation to private sector investments in eco-tourism and support for community-led conservation projects.

Habitat restoration is also an essential element in conserving the Dot-eared Coquette. The Amazon rainforest is a complex ecosystem, and restoring degraded or deforested areas and establishing corridors can connect fragments of primary forests, thus providing vital habitat for hummingbirds.

This reforestation process can enhance degraded forest patches for the conservation of birds and other wildlife. Additionally, enforcing wildlife protection laws and controlling the illegal wildlife trade are critical elements in ensuring the survival of hummingbirds.

Raising public awareness of the importance of conserving hummingbirds and their habitats can also lead to more significant support from the public and the government towards protecting the planet’s biodiversity. In conclusion, habitat loss and degradation remain the primary threats to the Dot-eared Coquette’s survival.

Hence, the conservation of this species depends on preserving their natural habitat, enforcing wildlife protection laws, and raising public awareness of their importance for maintaining biodiversity. The implementation of effective conservation measures will ensure that the Dot-eared Coquette continues to thrive for generations to come.

Diet and Foraging

Feeding

The Dot-eared Coquette is a nectarivorous species of hummingbirds. They are mostly active during the day and feed primarily on nectar from flowers.

The birds require a high and constant supply of nectar to fuel their high metabolism. Therefore, they spend most of their day hovering and probing flowers with their long beaks to extract the nectar deep inside.

Apart from nectar, these birds also feed on insects and spiders, which they capture in the air. Dot-eared Coquettes are agile fliers, making it easy for them to hunt prey during flight.

They use their long and curved bills to catch insects by hovering. Occasionally, they perch on flowers or stems to feed.

Diet

The Dot-eared Coquette feeds on the nectar of flowering trees, such as Clusia and Bombax. The birds prefer to feed on larger flowers, where the nectar is abundant.

Although the birds feed primarily on nectar, they also need a reliable source of protein, which they obtain from insects and spiders. Hummingbirds have a high demand for protein, which contributes to their growth and metabolic needs.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Dot-eared Coquette has a high metabolism, and they need to consume half their body weight in nectar each day to maintain their high energy demands. They have a high metabolic rate, which means that they require more oxygen than animals of similar size.

Moreover, they have a high oxygen-carrying capacity due to their efficient cardiovascular system. Their heart rate can go as high as 1260 beats per minute when they are in flight.

Hummingbirds are also endothermic, meaning that they have the ability to regulate their body temperature independently of the environment. They generate heat primarily through their metabolic activity, which helps to maintain a constant body temperature.

The Dot-eared Coquette can maintain their body temperature within a narrow range of 37 to 40 degrees Celsius.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Vocalization

Hummingbirds are known for their unique vocalizations, which play a crucial role in the birds’ communication, territory marking, and courtship behavior. The Dot-eared Coquette is no exception, and they have a distinctive vocalization that consists of high-pitched and shrill notes.

These birds have a variety of calls, including chips, chirps, and trills. The males have a more extensive range of vocalizations than the females.

The male’s vocalizations are used primarily in territorial defense and courtship behavior. They are said to have a unique sound to their vocalizations, distinctive of their genus.

During the breeding season, males use their vocalizations to attract females. The males perform intricate and elaborate courtship dances, where they fly back and forth or up and down while making high-pitched buzzing sounds with their wings.

They also vocalize in a distinctive way to woo females to mate with them. Female Dot-eared Coquettes also make vocalizations, but their vocalizations are less complex than the males’.

They use their sounds primarily for communication, such as to call their chicks or signal danger.

In conclusion, the Dot-eared Coquette has a unique and fascinating diet, metabolism, and vocal behavior that sets them apart from other bird species.

Their specialized beak allows them to feed on deep-throated flowers that other birds cannot access, and their high metabolic rate and endothermic capacity enable them to maintain a constant body temperature. The bird’s distinctive vocalizations are vital for communication within the species, including for territory defense, courtship, and signaling danger.

Behavior

Locomotion

The Dot-eared Coquette is a highly agile flier that can maneuver with great speed and accuracy. They are known for their hovering capabilities, which allows them to remain stationary in the air while feeding or extracting nectar.

These birds also have the ability to fly backwards, which they use primarily during courtship displays. Apart from hovering, the Dot-eared Coquette can also fly forwards and upwards, and they can also perform rapid and sharp turns in mid-air.

These birds can fly at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. Their wings can beat up to 80 times per second, allowing them to generate lift and remain aloft.

Self Maintenance

Dot-eared Coquettes spend a considerable amount of time grooming themselves, preening their feathers and scratching their head with their feet. This self-maintenance behavior not only helps to keep the birds clean but also help to maintain the integrity of their feathers, which are crucial for flight.

Agonistic Behavior

Dot-eared Coquettes are also fiercely territorial and engage in agonistic behavior to protect their territory. Males will defend a flower patch or feeding area, and try to exclude other males from entering.

They use their vocalizations, aggressive behavior, and even physical combat to defend their territory.

Sexual Behavior

During the breeding season, the Dot-eared Coquette males engage in elaborate courtship displays to attract females. The males perform complex aerial displays, where they fly back and forth, up and down, or hover in the air.

They also produce high-pitched buzzing sounds with their wings to attract females. If a female is receptive to mating, the male will then perform an undulating flight, during which copulation occurs.

Breeding

The Dot-eared Coquette breeding season varies depending on the region, but it is usually synchronized with the rainy season. In the northern range, breeding can occur from March to August, while in the southern range breeding starts from September to February.

The males perform elaborate courtship displays to attract females. During this time, they become highly territorial and attempt to exclude other males from a specific area.

The females build their nests, which are tiny cups made of plant material and spider webbing. They will usually lay two eggs, which hatch after 16 to 19 days of incubation.

After hatching, the chicks are

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