The Flamboyant Bird’s Lightning-Fast Wings and Its Hidden World

The hummingbird family is known for its tiny yet magnificent members that are like living jewels, flitting from flower to flower. Among the spectacular hummingbird species is the Tufted Coquette, a colorful resident of Central and South America. Measuring just three to four inches in length and weighing a mere third of an ounce, this tiny bird nonetheless captivates viewers with its streaking iridescent hues and charming crest.

The plumage of the male Tufted Coquette is what first draws the eye. Hues of emerald green, violet, and cobalt blue cover his upper parts, appearing to change shade as he turns and moves. This iridescence is created by the microstructure of the feathers themselves rather than pigmentation, scattering light in different wavelengths.

But it is the male’s tufted crest – the cinnamon colored tuft of feathers atop his head – that makes him truly unmistakable. This fluffy crest can be raised and lowered, appearing large and impressive or laying flat against his head.

Beyond their good looks, Tufted Coquettes exhibit intriguing behaviors that add to their appeal. The most notable of these is the courtship display performed by the male. He will hover in front of a female with his crest raised, wings flashing with rapid wingbeats up to 80 times per second.

Then he may suddenly dive at high speed, pulling up just short of touching her before repeating the impressive wing displays. If interested, the female will solicit mating by fluttering her wings while perched.

Once a pair bond is formed, the female Tufted Coquette undertakes the weighty task of nest building alone. She fashions a tiny bowl-shaped construction, binding plant fibers and spider webs together and camouflaging the nest with lichen and stalks to match the tree branch it sits upon. Inside this diminutive domicile, she will lay a clutch of two tiny white eggs no bigger than coffee beans. For the next two weeks, she alone will tend and brood the eggs, emerging only to feed on nectar before returning to incubate.

When the eggs hatch, the primitively feathered chicks grow at an astounding rate, doubling their weight in just three days. The female spends nearly all her time tending the nestlings, visiting hundreds of flowers each day to collect nectar and regurgitate it into the open mouths of her ravenous young. After about four weeks, the juvenile hummingbirds fledge from the nest – though they will continue to depend on their mother for food and safety for several more weeks.

Through their acrobatic courtship displays, the technical feats of nest construction, and demands of parenting such rapidly developing young, Tufted Coquettes demonstrate the resourcefulness and resilience possessed by even the tiniest of creatures. But above all, it is their exotic splendor – from tiny head tufts to iridescent feathers that change hue with each turn – that captivates the human eye and inspires wonder at the magnificent diversity of the natural world. The next time you see one of these tiny jewels hovering among your flowers, pause to appreciate the lithesome grace and exquisite beauty of the Tufted Coquette hummingbird.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *