Skip to main content

Fiery Topazes

Photo Wanted
Hummingbird Information

The Fiery Topaz (Topaza pyra) - also referred to as "Inca Topaz" - is a South American hummingbird that was formerly considered a subspecies of the Crimson Topaz,

Distribution / Range

They occur naturally in the subtropical or tropical moist lowland evergreen forests of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Venezuela. These topazes are mostly sedentary (non-migratory), but may perform seasonal movements according to the flowering seasons within their range.

They are mostly found high up in the canopy and rarely come down to the ground. So they are difficult to find.

Alternate (Global) Names:

Spanish: Topacio Candela de Cola Morada, Topacio Fúlgido; Portuguese: Topazio-de-fogo, topázio-de-fogo; French: Colibri flamboyant, Grand Topaze; Italian: Colibrì topazio di fiamma, Topazio flammeo; German: Flammenkolibri; Czech: Kolibrík plamenný, kolib?ík zelenokost?ecový; Danish: Sorthættet Pragttopas; Estonian: tuli-topaaskoolibri; Finnish: Tulitopaasikolibri; Japanese: himunehachidori; Dutch: Vuurtopaaskolibrie; Norwegian: Flammetopas; Polish: topazik ognisty;Slovak: topásovec ohnivý; Swedish: Flamtopas


Size: The male Fiery Topaz are large hummingbirds, measuring from 8.3 - 9 inches or 21 - 23  cm in length; however, this includes their long tail feathers which measure 4.7 - 5.1 inches or 12 - 13 cm. Males weigh between 0.4 - 0.5 oz or 10 - 14 grams. The straight, black bill is about 4 cm or 1.6 inches long. Females measure between 5.1 - 5.5 inches or 13 - 14 cm and weigh about 0.4 oz or 10 grams.

The adult male's most striking features are the two tail feathers next to the central feathers, which are much longer that the rest, curved, and crossed half-way down; as well as the metallic green throat with a golden brown to yellow sheen in the center, bordered by a black band. They have a mostly red plumage tinted orange and rose in various areas. The abdomen is red with a hint of rose to purple. His back is bright red. His upper tail feathers are golden green and his under tail feathers are bronze-green. The iridescence of its plumage is used during courtship or in defensive situations. His head is mostly a deep black. The wings are mostly brown with glossy crimson shoulders. Their flashy-colored plumage is used to attract females and to signal dominance.

They have dark brown eyes and orange-brown legs and feet.

The adult female is smaller than the male and she lacks the elongated tail feathers of the male. Her upper plumage is dark green and her under plumage is green with golden green edging. Her throat is green with crimson (rose-red) edges. Her central tail feathers are bronze-green; the next pair of feathers are violet; the other tail feathers are chestnut-colored. Her under tail feathers are glossy green.

Juveniles look like females. They attain their adult plumage in the second year.

Similar Species: The Fiery Topaz resembles the Crimson Topaz. Some authorities consider the Fiery Topaz a subspecies of Crimson Topaz.

Calls / Vocalizations

Fiery Topazes make high-pitched chirps and whistles. Their contact or defense calls are often short. Their aggression / chase calls are described as a series of rapid chattering.

Nesting / Breeding

Topazes usually breed twice a year, and the breeding season varies according to the range. In Guiana, the first season usually starts in January and goes on until April, and the second is from July through November.

Hummingbirds in general are solitary and neither live nor migrate in flocks; and there is no pair bond for this species - the male's only involvement in the reproductive process is the actual mating with the female.

During the breeding season, the male Topaz exposes his flashy-colored throat. The iridescence of its plumage is used in attracting the attention of females, or as a way to warn territorial intruders.

He will separate from the female immediately after copulation. One male may mate with several females. In all likelihood, the female will also mate with several males. The males do not participate in choosing the nest location, building the nest or raising the chicks.

The female is responsible for building the cup-shaped nest out of pale- colored plant fibers, often of Bombax seeds, woven together and green moss on the outside for camouflage in a protected location in a shrub, bush, tree or vines, about 10 - 26 feet (or 3 to 8 meters) above or near water. The small nest measures about half the length of the female and appears small compared to her. She lines the nest with soft plant fibers, animal hair and feather down, and strengthens the structure with spider webbing and other sticky material, giving it an elastic quality to allow it to stretch to double its size as the chicks grow and need more room.

The average clutch consists of two white eggs, which she incubates alone for about 14 to 23 days (exact time is not known), while the male defends his territory and the flowers he feeds on. The young are born blind, immobile and completely helpless. The chicks are black with a scarce pale grey down on the back.

The female alone protects and feeds the chicks with regurgitated food (mostly insects since nectar is an insufficient source of protein for the growing chicks). As is the case with other hummingbird species, the chicks are brooded only the first week or two, and left alone even on cooler nights after about 12 days - probably due to the small nest size. The chicks leave the nest when they are about 21 days old, but will be cared for by the female for another 3 weeks. The offspring attains its adult plumage and reaches sexual maturity in the second year.

Diet / Feeding

The male Topazes establish feeding territories which they defend by calling out to the intruders and flashing their bright colors towards them.

Fiery Topazes primarily feed on nectar taken from a variety of brightly colored, scented small flowers of trees, vines, shrubs and epiphytes found in the canopy of the forest.. They are often observed visiting the flowers of the Bromeliaceae and Ericaceae. In some areas (such as the Surinam), they forage near the ground.

They favor flowers with the highest sugar content (often red-colored and tubular-shaped) and seek out, and aggressively protect, those areas containing flowers with high energy nectar. They use their long, extendible, straw-like tongues to retrieve the nectar while hovering with their tails cocked upward as they are licking at the nectar up to 13 times per second. Sometimes they may be seen hanging on the flower while feeding.

Many native and cultivated plants on whose flowers these birds feed heavily rely on them for pollination. The mostly tubular-shaped flowers actually exclude most bees and butterflies from feeding on them and, subsequently, from pollinating the plants.

They may also visit local hummingbird feeders for some sugar water, or drink out of bird baths or water fountains where they will either hover and sip water as it runs over the edge; or they will perch on the edge and drink - like all the other birds; however, they only remain still for a short moment.

They also take some small spiders and insects - important sources of protein particularly needed during the breeding season to ensure the proper development of their young. Insects are often caught in flight (hawking); snatched off leaves or branches, or are taken from spider webs. A nesting female can capture up to 2,000 insects a day.

Males establish feeding territories, where they aggressively chase away other males as well as large insects - such as bumblebees and hawk moths - that want to feed in their territory. They use aerial flights and intimidating displays to defend their territories.

Hummingbird Metabolism and Survival and Flight Adaption - Interesting Information

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson

Please Note: The articles or images on this page are the sole property of the authors or photographers. Please contact them directly with respect to any copyright or licensing questions. Thank you.