Birds have captivated humans with their stunning and iridescent plumage for centuries. Their colorful feathers not only make them easily recognizable but also add to their charm. If you ever get the opportunity to spot these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat, don’t miss it.
One such exceptional bird is the rainbow-bearded thornbill, scientifically known as Chalcostigma herrani. As the name suggests, this bird has a face covered in a rainbow of colors. Its head is dark green with a white dot under each eye and a high, rufous crest on top. The neck boasts an array of colors including celadon-green, turquoise, yellow, crimson, and pink. What makes these birds even more striking are their long tails, which are deep purple with pronounced white corner points. We must credit Instagram/hummingbirds_of_Ecuador for the images.
The rainbow-bearded thornbill is a type of hummingbird that falls under the Trochilidae family. They can be found in various locations including Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador. These tiny birds prefer to inhabit areas with open landscapes that have dense vegetation such as small forests, gullies with ferns and bromeliads, subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland, and elfin forests.
The elusive Rainbow-bearded Thornbill is a rare bird found on the eastern slope of the Andes, in the vicinity of Maranon Valley. Typically, this small hummingbird can be seen hovering around shrubby páramo situated at elevations ranging from 2,450 to 3,100 meters. With an average length of 10.5 to 11 centimeters, including its elongated tail, the Rainbow-bearded Thornbill boasts a dark-hued appearance with a rufous crown and a red and green throat patch. The top tail coverts showcase striking coppery tones, while its back flaunts a beautiful shade of green. Lastly, the purplish-blue tail is capped with a white tip, making it a sight to behold amidst the verdant landscape.
The appearance of female Rainbow-bearded Thornbill birds is quite similar to their male counterparts, albeit being a bit less vibrant. They have ochre-yellow colored tails and bellies. Unlike the males, immature females lack the magnificent beards. During the mating season, female Rainbow-bearded Thornbill birds construct their nests on their own, typically in bushes, shrubs, or trees. The nests are cup-shaped and are created using braided plant fibers, green moss, soft plant fibers, fur, and feathers. The Rufous-capped Thornbill is another species that is comparable to the Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, albeit smaller and with buff-colored underparts.
These charming hummingbirds lead solitary lives, except for mating. Males are only present during the reproduction process and do not form any lasting bond with females. They do not migrate or live in flocks. To attract females, males perform a U-shaped flight pattern. Once copulation is complete, the male will disengage from the female. It is common for multiple females to mate with one male, and females may also mate with multiple males. The female is solely responsible for the placement, construction, and nurturing of the offspring without any assistance from the male.
It’s up to the mama bird to keep her little ones safe and fed. She usually gives them insects that she’s already partially digested, since nectar alone isn’t enough to meet their growing protein needs. To make sure they get enough to eat, she pokes food down their throats with her big beak. Like other types of hummingbirds, these babies are only snuggled up under mom’s wings for the first week or two. After about 12 days, even on chilly nights, she leaves them behind in their teeny-tiny nest. That’s probably because there’s not much room for everyone! When the chicks reach 7-10 days old, they’re ready to leave the nest and start exploring on their own.
The Bearded Rainbow Thornbills have a diet mainly consisting of nectar obtained from various types of small, colorful, and sweet-smelling flowers found on trees, herbs, shrubs, and epiphytes. They are quite particular about the areas they choose to feed from as they prefer those with high-energy nectar content. Their preference lies with red, tubular flowers that have the highest sugar levels. They use their long, straw-like tongues to extract the nectar while hovering with their tails pointed forward. It is not uncommon to observe them hanging from the flower while feeding. Female birds that are nesting can consume up to 2,000 insects daily.