marvelous spatuletail

In preparing for my first trip to see the Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis), I decided to read as much as I possibly could. I had The Birds of South America by Rudolph Meyer de Schaunsee; which described the locality where this bird occurs, and had a brief description that highlighted the long tail feathers with terminal racquets. Back then, there were some odd paintings of this outlandishly ornamented hummingbird, but the graphic material at a time was nowhere near the stunning photos and videos now available on the internet.

Without a hummingbird feeders to ensure that we would see a spatuletail, we set off to look for one at the location given to us by other birders. It was not hard to find a spatuletail at the right flowering bushes, but they all looked to be either females or young males. Indeed it is now a well established fact that adult males are a small minority in the spatuletail population. After seeing many females and young males, which resemble the female, I saw a spatuletail that had two small, dark, skipper-like butterflies, seemingly revolving around the bird’s body as it hovered at a flower. With the poor light conditions and a murky view, that was my first impression. I then realized that the bird was actually an adult male; it later perched on a branch and I was able to see the long tail and racquets!

My good friend Walter Mancilla put together this amazing video that shows adult males on display. You will see what I meant by two dark, skipper-like butterflies around the bird’s body I saw during my first encounter with an adult male. Also, notice the nesting female, which I believe is the first ever video documentation of a spatuletail’s nest.

Featured Photo: Dubi Shapiro

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Written by Alfredo Begazo
Alfredo lives in Florida but grew up alongside Peruvian Meadowlarks and Marvelous Spatuletails in Peru. Trained as Wildlife Biologist, he divides his time between South Florida and the tropics where he spends a fair amount of time. Alfredo founded Surbound , a blog on mission to connect the birds, wildlife, people, and magnificent landscapes in the Americas.