Sunday, May 3, 2015

Featured Bird: The Coquette Hummingbirds

A couple of months ago, I was approached with a picture of a bird asking if I could possibly come up with an ID on it. The bird pictured was so remarkable and festive looking that I couldn't help but perform a double take. Surely, this bird could not possibly be real and so I thought to myself that it HAD to be a work of fiction, the result of some particularly good photoshopping. As it turns out, the bird in the photograph was real, and a quick google search revealed to me that it was in fact a tufted coquette (lophornis ornatus), a small bird belonging to the family Trochilidae of small hovering birds, more commonly known as "humming birds". 

A photo of the tufted coquette that was circulating on Facebook.
credited to: http://ibc.lynxeds.com/photo/tufted-coquette-lophornis-ornatus/branch-having-scratch
Humming birds are known to be one of the smallest flying vertebrates in the world and are one of the few renowned species whose evolutionary history remains relatively shrouded in mystery to date. There are very few fossils of ancient humming bird species that paleontologists can learn from and this is because humming birds are not only small, but also have exceptionally frail and hollow bones. 


The coquettes stand out among other humming birds because of their rather outlandish feathers, resembling, perhaps, the headdress and adornments of carnival folk, or various kinds of flowers. Like many other humming birds, the Coquette's principal source of food are the nectar of flowers, which they sip with the aid of a long, thin tongue, and sharp piercing beaks. Coquette's are also known to feed opportunistically on small invertebrates such as flies or ants, typically during the breeding season when the bird's need for protein increases.  Some Coquette humming birds, like the tufted coquette are considered to be relatively widespread animals while others, like the short crested coquette are believed to be critically endangered due to habitat loss, and deforestation for agricultural purposes. 




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