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Green-tailed Trainbearers

Hummingbird Information

Nesting Green-tailed Trainbearer female

Green-tailed Trainbearers (Lesbia nuna) - also known as Little Long-tailed SylphsThe Green-tailed Trainbearers (Lesbia nuna) - also known as Little Long-tailed Sylphs - are hummingbirds found in western South America, specifically the following countries: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

They inhabit subtropical or tropical moist montanes, high-altitude shrubland, as well as heavily degraded former forest, as wel as in parks, bush-filled pastures and areas with hedges. They occur at elevations from 5,600 - 12,500 feet (1,700 - 3,800 meters). At higher elevations, their range overlaps with the related, larger Black-tailed Trainbearer (Lesbia victoriae).

Their preferred habitats are subtropical and tropical heavily degraded former forest and shrubland; and to a lesser extent subtropical and tropical montane moist forest and high altitude grassland.

These active hummingbirds are resident (non-migratory) throughout their range. They are often seen hovering at flowers at various heights.

Subspecies and Distribution:

  • Lesbia nuna nuna (Lesson, 1832)
    • Found in the Andes mountain range of of southwestern Peru and northern Bolivia.

  • Lesbia nuna gouldii (Loddiges, 1832)
    • Weller and Schuchmann (2004) submitted a proposal to the South American Check-list Committee to separate this into its own species
    • Found in the Andes of northeastern and south central Colombia. Previously occurred in Venezuela (Mérida).

  • Lesbia nuna gracilis (Gould, 1846)
    • Found in the Andes of Ecuador.

  • Lesbia nuna pallidiventris (Simon, 1902)
    • Found in the Andes of northern Peru.

  • Lesbia nuna eucharis (Bourcier and Mulsant, 1848)
    • Found in the mountains near Huánuco in central Peru. Formerly thought to have come from Colombia.

  • [Lesbia nuna chlorura - Gould, 1871] - Proposed race - synonym of ssp. eucharis

  • [Lesbia nuna boliviana, Boucard, 1891) - Proposed race - synonym of nominate race

Alternate (Global) Names

Chinese: ????? ... Czech: Sylfa zelenoocasá ... Danish: Grønhalet Slæbbærer ... Dutch: Groenstaartkomeetkolibrie, Groenstaart-komeetkolibrie ... Finnish: Pikkulaahuskolibri ... French: Colibri à traîne verte, Colibri nouna, Porte-traîne nouna ... German: Grünschwanzlesbia, Grünschwanz-Lesbia, Grünschwanzsylphe ... Italian: Lesbia codaverde, Paggetto codaverde ... Japanese: komidorifutaohachidori ... Norwegian: Grønnslepkolibri ... Polish: pazik zielonosterny ... Russian: ????????????? ?????? ... Slovak: chvostá?ik vle?kochvostý, vleckochvost zelenochvostý ... Spanish: Colibrí Colilargo Menor, Colibrí Coludo Verde, Cometa Coliverde ... Swedish: Grönstjärtad släpsylf


The male Black-tailed Trainbearer averages 16 - 19 cm (6.25 - 7.5 inches) in length. The female is a little smaller - she is only about 10 - 12.5 cm (4 - 5 inches) long.

Only the male has a long, forked tail that makes up most of his length - the tail alone is about 10 - 12 cm (4 - 4.7 inches) long.

Both the male and female have a mostly green plumage. The male can be identified his forked, long tail, and the female's underside is white with extensive green spotting.

Nesting / Breeding

Hummingbirds are solitary in all aspects of life other than breeding; and the male's only involvement in the reproductive process is the actual mating with the female. They neither live nor migrate in flocks; and there is no pair bond for this species.

Males court females by flying in a u-shaped pattern in front of them. During these courtship displays, male Green-tailed Trainbearers make snapping sounds with their tails.

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 Green-tailed Trainbearer is responsible for building the cup-shaped nest out of plant fibers woven together and green moss on the outside for camouflage in a protected location in a shrub, bush or tree. 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 nest is typically found on a low, skinny horizontal perch.

The average clutch consists of two white eggs, which she incubates alone, while the male defends his territory and the flowers he feeds on. The young are born blind, immobile and without any down.

The female alone protects and feeds the chicks with regurgitated food (mostly partially-digested insects since nectar is an insufficient source of protein for the growing chicks). The female pushes the food down the chicks' throats with her long bill directly into their stomachs.

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 20 days old.

Green-tailed Hummingbirds at the Walsrode Zoo: Captive Breeding of Hummingbirds

Diet / Feeding

The Green-tailed Trainbearers primarily feed on nectar taken from a variety of brightly colored, scented small flowers of trees, herbs, shrubs and epiphytes.

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 and feMales 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.

Metabolism and Survival and Flight Adaptions - Amazing Facts

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson

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