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Marvellous Spatuletail: Nature’s Most Charming Bird Species

Archana is an admirer of nature. She likes to see its wonderful creations—flora and fauna, mountains, sky—and put her thoughts on paper.


The Marvellous Spatuletail is the most celebrated hummingbird species in the Andean cloud forest, northern Peru. With its extravagant tail, blue-glorious crown, and shimmering green throat, it has been named Marvellous Spatuletail. This male hummingbird ranks as one of the globe’s most magnificent birds. They seldom shed their extraordinary tail feathers, so it is not unexpected to discover males without one or both rackets, or with one racket that is longer than the other.

This charming little hummingbird lusters in shades of silver, green, and bronze. It was first found in the Rio Utcubamba Valley in northern Peru in 1835 and described in the genus Loddigesia.

The female Marvelous Spatuletail mainly has green above the throat and silver below. She can be identified by the merger of a silver spot on the backside of the eye, a sprinkled throat, and marginally lengthened tail feathers with brusque tips. It feeds on flora at the early to middle stages, generally at woodland edges or in clearings.

The charming Marvellous Spatuletail has a unique tail containing only four fringes. They use them as a prop to attract female birds.


Courtship and Mating with Female Spatules

The male Marvellous Spatuletail lives up to its name fully by enjoying its colorful and dancing feathers. Its tail is vegged with two long string-like outer fringes that crisp-cross each other beautifully. And the end of the wire contains large violet-blue discs, also called "spatules."

These two unique feathers grow to three to four times their body size. And they can dance each twirl independently. Tail length differs with age. They use these striking and extremely unique feathers during their courtship display in order to attract females.

The male spatuletail shows off his magnificent performance and appearance at the bundala, or communal display place, where female birds visit to choose a companion. It’s not exceptional because other hummingbird species, including the Snowcap and Chilean Woodstar, also follow this system to attract female birds.

While displaying themselves, the male marvellous spatuletail bumps back and forth across a horizontal stem at a rapid pace. Thereafter, it hovers its feather in front of the female while hotly flapping its spatules, producing snapping and chittering shouts all the time.


Making a Nest for Nurturing Eggs

After they mate at the lek, the female spatuletail is on her own. She does not consider the help of a male to build a nest for giving birth to eggs. She creates her own nest out of plant fibres and moss, which she places on a low, horizontal tree branch.

Thereafter, she strengthens the nest with spider webs and other sticky and stinky materials.

The female spatuletail gives birth to two white eggs, which she alone incubates. The tiny eggs turn into young, blind, and featherless babies, and then grow immediately. The interesting thing is that they leave their mother’s nest only after a week to 10 days.

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Flower Foraging (Search for Food)

The Marvellous Spatuletail wanders for food at the edges of a variety of blossoming ferns, several of which depend on the bird for pollination or breeding.

For instance, the Juan Fernández Firecrown and Blue-throated Hillstar The magnificent spatuletail typically perches while feeding on honey and stopovers at honey sources in a long and regularly moving direction. This feeding method is identified as "trap-lining."

They work and establish feeding colonies, where they hunt off other bird males and large insects like bumblebees. However, in the process, they are dominated by larger and more aggressive hummingbirds like the Chestnut-breasted Coronet and others.

They use their unique and colourful feathers to defend their flower-foraging territory.


Diet and Nectar

They mostly live on nectar or honey taken from an array of brilliantly dyed, perfumed small flowers of shrubs, herbs, ferns, and epiphytes. They surprisingly explore the red-flowered lily Alstroemeria (Bomarea) and the flowers of the "mupa mupa" shrubs.

While fluttering with their tails pricked skyward, they use their tall, extendible, and straw-like tongues to consume nectar. The bird licks the nectar or honey for about 13 times a second. Periodically, they are seen swinging on the flower while feeding and consuming.


Illegal Hunting and Danger to Hummingbirds

The vital peril to this spatuletail is dwelling extinction, which is caused by burning the forest for agriculture and illegitimate wood-cutting. Another peril is unauthorized hunting.

The male spatuletail is targeted by hunters operating slingshots, as some suspect that the hummingbird's heart is an aphrodisiac or love potion.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Archana Das

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