A bird whose marvelous color combination and intricate flying display makes him look like an iridescent, long tailed, fluffy flying ping pong ball!
The Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis) is a remarkable hummingbird that truly lives up to its name, captivating observers with its marvelous tail and intricate displays. It is a medium-sized bird and the sole member of the Loddigesia genus. Despite its small size, it is often likened to a slightly fluffy ping-pong ball. Its beak is slender, resembling a matchstick. The male boasts a striking blue crest on its head, adorned with a brilliant turquoise throat patch. A black line runs down the center of its otherwise white chest and abdomen, while its flanks and lower abdomen display a gentle shade of light green. The upper parts of its body possess a bronze-brown hue. What sets this bird apart is its tail, consisting of only four long feathers. Two of these feathers are elongated, racquet-shaped outer tail feathers that converge at the end, forming large violet-blue discs known as ‘spatules.’ Remarkably, the Marvelous Spatuletail can move these tail feathers independently. As the bird matures, its tail feathers can grow up to three to four times the length of its body.
The female, although possessing a shorter tail than the male, still exhibits drop-shaped rackets. Her appearance differs from the male as she possesses a white throat and lacks the colorful throat patch and black line.
Juvenile Marvelous Spatuletails do not possess the spatules seen in adults.
This species is exclusively found on the eastern side of the Rio Utcubamba valley, in the Cordillera del Colán, Amazonas, and one location in San Martîn, northern Peru. They inhabit elevations ranging from 7000 ft (2100-2900m) (Birdlife International 2000).
This shy hummingbird species prefers to reside along forest edges and isolated woodlots on steep slopes. Their favored habitat consists of thorny Rubus thickets that are almost impenetrable, mixed with Alnus trees.
The primary source of food for the Marvelous Spatuletail is nectar, which they obtain from a variety of brightly colored and scented small flowers found on trees, herbs, shrubs, and epiphytes. They particularly seek out the red-flowered lily Astomemeria formosissima and flowers on “mupa mupa” trees. With their long, extendible, straw-like tongues, they retrieve nectar while hovering in place, their tails gracefully arched upward.
Breeding season typically spans from late October to early May. During this period, the male engages in high-speed dances around a twig, swiftly hopping back and forth. It has been observed performing this mesmerizing dance up to 14 times in just 7 seconds, aiming to impress a female. Once a male has successfully caught the attention of a female, she takes on the responsibility of constructing a cup-shaped nest using plant fibers intricately woven together and camouflaged on the outside with green moss. The nest is lined with soft materials and strengthened with spider webs. The female lays a clutch of up to two white eggs, which she diligently incubates for approximately one to two weeks. After around 12 days, even on cooler nights, the female leaves the nest, likely due to its small size. The chicks fledge when they are approximately 7 to 10 days old.
The main threats to the Marvelous Spatuletail stem from habitat destruction caused by slash-and-burn agriculture and illegal logging. Additionally, they face the danger of illegal hunting, as some hunters target the male bird, believing its heart to be an aphrodisiac. These threats highlight the importance of