Blossomcrown (Anthocephala floriceps)

Spanish: Colibrí Florido
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderApodiformes
FamilyTrochilidae
GenusAnthocephala (1)
SizeLength: c. 8.4 cm (2)

The blossomcrown is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A beautiful hummingbird of Colombia, the blossomcrown (Anthocephala floriceps) has shining green upperparts and bronzy-green central tail feathers. The distinctive crown of the male blossomcrown is white at the front, becoming chestnut towards the back, while the crown of the female is brownish (2) (3).

The male blossomcrown also has more vivid green plumage than the female, but in most other respects the male and female are similar in appearance. The underparts of this species are greyish buff, and both sexes have a prominent white spot behind each eye and a straight, black bill (2) (3).

Two subspecies of the blossomcrown are recognised. Anthocephala floriceps berlepschi has white-tipped tail feathers while Anthocephala floriceps floriceps has buff tips to its tail feathers (3).

The blossomcrown occurs in Colombia, where each subspecies occupies a distinct range (4). A. f. floriceps is found in northeast Colombia, where it inhabits the north and southeast slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. A. f. berlepschi occurs in central Colombia, in the Central Andes, on the east slope of Volcán Tolima and south as far as Huila (4).

The blossomcrown is found in humid evergreen forest and older secondary growth forest (3). In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta this species is typically found at elevations between 600 and 1,700 metres, and in the Central Andes at 1,200 to 2,300 metres, although there has been one record of a blossomcrown nesting at 2,400 metres (4).

Like all hummingbirds, the blossomcrown feeds on nectar, typically foraging for this sugar-rich food alone in the understorey. Only one specific food plant has been recorded, the flowering banana (Musa species) (2) (3). The blossomcrown has the remarkable ability to hover on the spot while it drinks nectar from a flower, which is possible due to its highly specialised wings. The wings can rotate 180 degrees and beat at 70 strokes a second or more, allowing it to adjust its position in the air with precise control. As it hovers, the blossomcrown inserts its slender bill into the flower, and uses its extensible tube-like tongue to lap up the nectar (5). 

The blossomcrown is known to breed between September and October in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (3). During this period, male blossomcrowns gather in small groups and chirp persistently from a low but exposed perch (2). The female blossomcrowns then choose a mate, probably selecting the male with the most impressive song and appearance. Although little else is known about the breeding biology of this species, it is probable that, like other hummingbirds, the female blossomcrown builds a soft, cup-shaped nest and lays two eggs. The eggs are probably incubated for between 15 and 22 days (5).

The main threat to the north-eastern population of the blossomcrown is the loss of its habitat to coca and marijuana plantations. In the past, the Colombian authorities have sought to combat these plantations by spraying the slopes with herbicide, simply creating a new problem for the blossomcrown (4).

Human immigration to the area, beginning in the 1950s, has also become a problem, as it results in expansion of agriculture areas, for produce such as coffee and livestock, logging, burning, and the planting of exotic trees, such as pine. As a result of these activities, only 15 percent of the original forest vegetation remains in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (4).

On the eastern slope of the Central Andes, home to the population of A. f. berlepschi, much of the original habitat has also been cleared for agriculture since the 1950s. Cattle-grazing and plantations growing coffee, sugarcane, banana, potatoes and beans are all contributors to this habitat loss. Today, only scattered patches of mature secondary forest remain, and natural vegetation cover has been reduced to just 15 percent of what it once was (4).

The subspecies A. f. berlepschi occurs in the Alto Quindío-Acaime Nature Reserve, a small protected area in the Central Andes. Parts of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, where A. f. floriceps occurs, have also been designated as protected, although these are reportedly ineffective (4).

Proposed conservation actions include improving knowledge of the population, distribution and ecological requirements of subspecies A. f. berlepschi. It is has also been recommended that further suitable sites in the Central Andes should be protected (4).

Find out more about the blossomcrown:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/
  2. Hilty, S.L. and Brown, W.L. (1986) A Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  3. del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Sargatal, J. (1999) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 5: Barn Owls to Hummingbrids. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  4. BirdLife International (November, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/
  5. Mobley, J.A. (Ed.) (2009) Birds of the World. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, Tarrytown, New York.