The Plain-bellied Emerald (Amazilia leucogaster) is a fairly common South American hummingbird. In Brazil, it is known as Beija-flor-de-barriga-branca.
Distribution / Range
The Plain-bellied Emerald occurs naturally along or near the coast in northeastern South America, from eastern Venezuela, south to around São Luís in northeastern Brazil, and west to Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
Smaller disjunct populations occur in northeastern Brazil as far south as Pernambuco and Bahia.
They inhabit a wide range of semi-open habitats, primarily in coastal regions.
They are mostly found sea level, in semi-open habitats, mangroves, along forest edges, cerrado and caatinga ecoregions, plantations, parks and gardens.
Even though they are not migratory birds, some post-breeding dispersal has been noted.
The Plain-bellied Emeralds average 3.5 - 4 inches or 9 - 10 cm in length (including the tail).
The upper plumage and sides are glossy green, often tinged golden on the lower back. The throat and under plumage is white. The wings and tail are coppery bronze. The central tail feathers are golden and the outer tail feathers are dark blue with narrow whitish tips.
The bill is slightly curved. The upper bill is dark and the lower bill is flesh-colored with a dark tip.
Nesting / Breeding
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.
Males court females by flying in a u-shaped pattern in front of them. 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 Plain-bellied Emerald Hummingbird is responsible for building a small 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 - oftentimes built low above water as a protection from predators. 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 branch.
The average clutch consists of 1- 3 white eggs (mostly 2), which she incubates alone for about 14 - 15 days, 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 - 25 days old.
Diet / Feeding
The Plain-bellied Emeralds 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 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.
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