By Wilson Diaz – Green Tours Peru
Since we recently released our new tour “Hummingbirds of Peru”, I would like to introduce you to some of the hummingbirds that could be seen in this tour. I have selected my favourite 10 out of the more than 70 hummingbird species on the tour bird list.
Of course, this hummer is on top of the list, everybody loves the Spatuletail. It’s a small hummingbird that inhabits forest edges, second growth and montane scrub along the Utcubamba valley, in north Peru. The males are particularly attractive, with bright purple forehead, and racket-tipped long tail feathers.
Most of its known habitat is not easy to access, but the hummingbird feeders at the Huembo reserve have made it easy to see these hummers.
2. Grey-bellied Comet
This is my favourite one, probably not the prettiest or more appealing of hummers, but it’s because of these guys that I felt in love with hummingbirds, more than 20 years ago (yes, I love hummingbirds !!), while working on a tourism and conservation project in north Peru. Grey-bellied Comets are rare, very rare. Nowadays, we only know of one small, single population in north Peru, near the city of Cajamarca. In recent years, other similar habitats along the region have been surveyed in search of the Comet, but with negative results. The species seems to be confined to the Chonta valley, a small and narrow valley northeast of Cajamarca. The population seems to be very small, but apparently it has not change since its discovery in the late 19th century. Why such a small population still survives? Anybody knows!
It is a large hummingbird. Male Comets have long forked tails, with iridescent feathers; they also have a characteristic dark blue patch on the throat.
3. Royal Sunangel
Thought to be endemic to Peru, until the species was found in southernmost Ecuador. The Royal Sunangel inhabits subtropical elfin forest edge and shrubbery, between 1500 and 2200 meters of elevation. Males are striking deep blue colored hummingbirds. In Peru, the best place to see this species is in the Abra Patricia mountains, between the San Martin and Amazonas Departments. There, the birds can be found on steep hills and ridgetops with good habitat along the IIRSA Norte road. Also, the species is regularly seen at the hummingbird feeders at the Fundo Alto Nieva reserve.
4. Rufous-crested Coquette
“Coquette” comes from a French word that means “someone that looks beautiful, pleasant to look at”, also “someone who pays attention to the way he/she dresses”. Clearly, this name perfectly fits this tiny hummingbird, garbed with a glowing orange crest and a bright metallic green throat. It can be found in the eastern slope of the Andes, at edges of humid forest, clearings, along roadsides, and semi-open habitats with bushes, from Bolivia, north to Panama. In north Peru, it is quite common at the hummingbird feeders of Waqanki and Arena Blanca reserves.
5. Wire-crested Thorntail
Another stunning hummingbird of the eastern slope of the Andes. Males have wire-like crests, metallic green throats and forehead, and a spectacular long, forked tail. These tiny birds are mostly canopy birds, but they can go down to gardens when food is available. Like other hummers, they particularly like gardens with Verbena flowers and blooming Inga trees. In north Peru, Arena Blanca reserve is the best place to see them.
6. Rainbow Starfrontlet
Its name says it all: a rainbow on a starred forehead. From the right angle, you can see a feast of bright colours: blue, red, green, yellow, purple… !! It is a large hummingbird, common, but restricted to humid cloud forests of Ecuador and Peru. They usually perform spectacular aerial pursuits above the vegetation, and this aggressive behaviour makes them easy to located while chasing each other.
7. Sword-billed Hummingbird
The only hummingbird that has a bill that is longer than its body. It has a widespread distribution in the humid forests of the Andes, from Venezuela south to Bolivia. Despite its drab plumage, this hummingbird is always a treat because if its spectacular bill.
8. Purple-throated Sunangel
Another gem restricted to the Andes of Ecuador and north Peru. Males are dark green, with a deep violet iridescent throat, visible only when saw from the right angle. The Purple-throated Sunangel prefers humid forests and humid shrubby areas, but can also be found near Eucalyptus plantations and other altered habitats.
9. Black Metaltail
Metaltails are small high elevation hummingbirds. The Black Metaltail is one of the three Metaltails endemic to Peru, and probably the easiest to find. It’s fairly common along the western slope of the Andes, in semi-arid open montane scrub and woodland, vegetated canyons, and bushy slopes. Both sexes are blackish, with an iridescent metallic green gorget.
10. Long-tailed Sylph
“Sylphs” are imaginary elemental beings of the air, but also a “slender, beautiful women”. In this case, it is a slender, beautiful hummingbird, that reigns in the air of the Andean cloud forests. Its most attractive feature is the long, glittering blue-green tail of the males. It’s a common hummingbird of the east slope of the Andes, from Venezuela to Bolivia.