Thursday 23 May
Golden-bellied Starfrontlet (Coeligena bonapartei)
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Golden-bellied Starfrontlet fact file
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Golden-bellied Starfrontlet description
The golden-bellied starfrontlet belongs to the hummingbird family, Trochilidae, which is well-recognised for bearing some of the most colourful and glittering plumages, and most unique anatomy, in the bird world. Golden-bellied starfrontlets are no exception, with the male exhibiting shiny dark green upperparts, a golden orange lower back, dark metallic bronze upper tail-coverts and golden-bronze under tail-coverts, fringed with rufous. The crown is black, the throat is a glittering dark emerald green with a bluish-violet iridescent patch, and the abdomen is golden, earning the golden-bellied starfrontlet its common name. Females are similar but with a longer bill, green crown, and rufous chin and throat, with juveniles resembling adult females (3). This species possesses a long, straight, slender bill, well adapted to extracting the nectar that forms the bulk of its diet (2) (5).
- Coeligena orina, Ornismya bonapartei.
- Size: c. 140 mm (2)
- Male wing length: 70.4 – 78.6 mm (3)
- Male tail length: 44.3 – 50.4 mm (3)
- 6.4 – 6.9 g (2)
- In animals, a mating system in which a male has more than one female partner.
- IUCN Red List (November, 2005)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1999) Handbook of the birds of the world, Volume 5 - Barn-owls to Hummingbirds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Sanches-Oses, C. (2003) Taxonomy, Phylogeny, and Biogeography of the Andean Hummingbird Genera Coeligena LESSON, 1832; Pterophanes GOULD, 1849; Ensifera LESSON, 1843; and Patagona GRAY, 1840 (Aves: Trochiliformes) (PhD). Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat Bonn, Bonn. Available at:
- CITES (November, 2005)
- Animal Diversity Web (January, 2006)
- BirdLife International (January, 2006)
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Golden-bellied Starfrontlet biology
Very little has been documented about the biology of the golden-bellied starfrontlet, but much can be inferred from what are well known characteristics of the hummingbird family generally. Hummingbirds are solitary animals, only coming together to breed. Mating is polygynous and males attract mates using song, iridescent plumage and dramatic display flights. Females are responsible for all the nest-building, incubation and post-hatching parental care. The clutch size typically consists of two eggs, and incubation usually lasts 16 to 19 days. Female hummingbirds can have two broods per year when conditions permit and will re-nest if a brood is lost (5). The golden-bellied starfrontlet is known to breed between January and July (2).
Hummingbirds feed on nectar and insects, with around 90 % of their diet coming from nectar. In addition to possessing specialised bills adapted to exploiting nectar sources, hummingbirds have also developed a unique flight structure that allows them to hover in front of flowers while feeding and even fly backwards. With the flowers unable to maintain the hummingbirds’ weight, these birds would be unable to feed on nectar without this incredible ability to hover (5). Flowers visited by the golden-bellied starfrontlet for nectar include Bomarea, Cavendishia, Fuchsia, Macleania, Mutisia and Palicourea. Insects are also taken from the air, and arthropods gleaned from plant surfaces (2).Top
Golden-bellied Starfrontlet range
C. b. consita is distributed patchily across the Sierra de Perija, along the Colombian-Venezuelan border, C. b. bonapartei occurs in the East Andes of central Colombia, and one record of C. b. orina has been found from the Peramo de Fontino, in the northern Central Andes of Colombia (2) (3).Top
Golden-bellied Starfrontlet habitat
Found in cloudforest, dwarf forest and open terrain with scattered vegetation, at 1,400 – 3,200 m altitude (2).Top
Golden-bellied Starfrontlet status
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and listed under Appendix II of CITES (4). Three subspecies are recognised: C. b. consita, C. b. bonapartei and C. b. orina. However, C. b. orina is often considered a separate species, but is only known from a single specimen and is believed by others to be a subspecies of C. bonapartei, or even simply to represent a melanistic form of the species (2).Top
Golden-bellied Starfrontlet threats
The global population size of the golden-bellied starfrontlet has not been quantified, but is not believed to reach the criterion for the species to appear on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which requires it to be below the threshold of 10,000 mature individuals or be declining more than 30 % in ten years or three generations. For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. C. b. bonapartei has a wide distribution, but C. b. consita and C. b. orina are very restricted in range. Much illegal activity and new settlements takes place in the Sierra de Perija Mountains (consita), and numerous roads approaching the region from Colombia imply further interest by people in colonising the area and exploiting its minerals (2). Some parts remain pristine, however, and the species appears to be able to tolerate habitat disturbance by man to some extent (2). Although considered stable generally, the species has nevertheless been described as ‘uncommon’ in at least parts of its range and remains poorly understood. Thus, detailed studies are required to learn more about this beautiful and colourful bird, its abundance and the threats it may face (6).Top
Golden-bellied Starfrontlet conservation
There are no conservation measures currently in place for this species.Top
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