Colorful Puffleg

Colorful Puffleg
COLORFUL PUFFLEG (Eriocnemis mirabilis)
Pronounced: Ayr-ee-ok-nem-is meer-a-bil-is Order: Apodiformes
Kingdom: Animalia Family: Trochilidae
Phylum: Chordata Genus: Eriocnemis
Class: Aves Species: Mirabilis


This little hummingbird is found in only a few locations in mountainous regions of northern South America. It is believed to be extremely rare and its habitat is being destroyed due to urbanization and use of trees to make products. Some conservation efforts are being made to save this habitat.


The Colorful Puffleg is found in the low to middle level understory of wet forests in mountainous areas. It feeds on the nectar of flowers, and chooses the most sugary ones for their high calories. It will actively defend its territory to protect its flowers from other hummingbirds. They use their long, thin bills to drink from flowers, flicking their tongues into the nectar at a rate of up to 13 times per second. They are important to plants because they help to pollinate some of them. During the breeding season, when they need more energy, they will also eat up to 2000 insects and spiders a day, instead of nectar.


Because of their incredibly high metabolism, they need to eat frequently, even when they’re not breeding, and can eat 3 – 10 times their own weight in food every day. Their heart beats about 1200 times per minute when they are flying, and 200 times per minute at rest. Their wings beat 70 times per second and create a humming sound for which they are named. At night they slow everything down to an almost hibernation state called torpor to conserve energy.


It is estimated that there are less than 250 total adult Colorful Pufflegs left in the wild. They are listed as critically endangered because their numbers are expected to decrease due to habitat destruction.


Eriocnemis translates from the Greek to mean wool or cotton thighs, referring to the white puffs of feathers on the birds’ legs.
Females will build cup-shaped nests by weaving plant fibres, feather down, animal hair and spider webs together. The nest is stretchy and can expand as the chicks grow. She lays 2 white eggs and incubates them herself. When they are born, she will feed them partially digested insects because they are higher in calories than the nectar she normally eats. She will care for them for about two weeks, then leave them. They will leave the nest at about 3 weeks old.

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