Marvelous spatuletail

Let’s all agree that it’s the most popular and charismatic species of hummingbird that will leave you awe

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This species, commonly known as the Marvelous spatuletail, is endemic to a small area in the Andes of northern Peru, where it inhabits forest edges and shrubby clearings. What sets the male marvelous spatuletail apart is its extraordinary tail, which boasts just four feathers—two of which end in large, paddle-like structures, or ‘rackets,’ that are not seen in any other bird species.

The male marvelous spatuletail is a visual spectacle, particularly during the breeding season when its tail feathers are fully grown. The rackets at the end of the tail are used in elaborate courtship displays designed to attract females. These feathers can be moved independently, creating a mesmerizing dance that is both a display of vigor and an artistic performance.

The male’s courtship behavior is an elaborate and energetically demanding display. He hovers in front of the female, who observes from a perch, and moves rapidly back and forth while twisting the rackets in various patterns. This dance highlights the male’s agility and stamina, qualities that are likely to be favored by the female when selecting a mate.

The long racketed tail feathers of the males are not permanent; they are shed during the annual molt and regrown for the next breeding season. During the molt, males may temporarily lack one or both rackets, which can impact their ability to perform courtship displays.

The marvelous spatuletail is listed as endangered, with population estimates suggesting only a few hundred individuals remain in the wild. Habitat destruction and fragmentation are significant threats, as are the pressures of hunting. The bird’s heart has been hunted for purported aphrodisiac properties, a practice based on folklore rather than scientific evidence.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Peru
300-1,600
Official estimate
EN
2016
Breeding

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No