Scissor-tailed hummingbird (Hylonympha macrocerca)

Spanish: Colibrí Tijereta
GenusHylonympha (1)
SizeMale length (including tail): 19 cm (2)
Male tail length: 9 - 10 cm (2)
Female weight: 6.5 - 8 g (2)
Male weight: 7 - 7.5 g (2)
Female length: 12 - 13 cm (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

Distinguished by vibrantly-patterned bodies, and acrobatic flying ability, the members of the hummingbird family are recognised as some of the world’s most charismatic birds (4). With its scintillating plumage and deeply-forked tail, the aptly named scissor-tailed hummingbird is no exception. The male is mainly dark green, with a violet cap, a dark green hind-crown, a metallic green back, washed golden, and a glittering emerald breast. The rest of the underparts are darker green, becoming black on the belly, and blackish purple down the long tail. The female is dark green, with white spots on the underparts, a white centre to the breast, and a chestnut belly and undertail. The tail of the female is much shorter than that of the male, but the bill is similarly long, black and slightly decurved (2) (5).

The scissor-tailed hummingbird is endemic to the Paria Peninsula in north-east Venezuela (2) (5).

Inhabits humid forest with high trees, with records ranging from 500 to 1,200 metres above sea level (2) (5).

In areas of primary forest, the scissor-tailed hummingbird mainly feeds at bromeliad flowers, using its slim bill and long tongue to access the sugar-rich nectar. In addition, it will often glean insects from bromeliad leaves, or alternatively hawk them from the air. In disturbed, secondary forests, most feeding is associated with the flowers of Helicona aurea and Costus species (2) (5).

The power, size and unique wing structure of the hummingbird allows it to fly with phenomenal agility (4) (6). However, the metabolic costs of hummingbird flight are extremely high. To compensate, hummingbirds are known to periodically go into a state of torpor during the night, especially when there is little available food or the weather conditions are unfavourable (4) (6) (7) (8). By entering a deep, sleep-like state, hummingbirds are able to significantly slow-down their metabolic functions and maintain a very low body temperature (6).

Owing to an increase in cash-crop agriculture, the last few decades have seen the loss and degradation of significant areas of forest habitat within the scissor-tailed hummingbird’s already restricted range (2) (5).

Although the scissor-tailed hummingbird’s entire range is formally protected within the Paria Peninsula National Park, illegal burning and other forms of habitat destruction still continue within its boundaries (2) (5). Improving the protection and management of the national park is therefore a major priority of conservation measures for this species. It is also hoped that alternative, less destructive agricultural techniques can be developed for villagers adjacent to the national park (5).

For further information on the conservation of hummingbirds see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

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:

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)
  2. 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.
  3. CITES (December, 2009)
  4. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  5. BirdLife International (December, 2009)
  6. Smithsonian National Zoological Park (December, 2009)
  7. Hainsworth, F.R., Collins, B.G. and Wolf, I.L. (1977) The function of torpor in hummingbirds. Physiological Zoology, 50: 215-222.
  8. Bech, C., Abe, A.S., Steffensen, J.F., Berger, M. and Bicudo, J.E.P.W. (1997) Torpor in three species of Brazilian hummingbirds under semi-natural conditions. Condor, 99: 780-788.