Short-crested coquette (Lophornis brachylophus)

Synonyms: Lophornis brachylopha
Spanish: Coqueta Cresticorta, Coqueta de Guerrero
GenusLophornis (1)
SizeLength: 7 cm (2)

The short-crested coquette is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The short-crested coquette (Lophornis brachylophus) is a tiny and exquisitely marked hummingbird. It is a member of the family Trochilidae (hummingbirds), a group known as the ‘flying jewels’ in reference to their small bodies and striking colouration (4). The male short-crested coquette has a reddish-brown crown and crest, coupled with bronze-green upperparts, tawny underparts and a lustrous green throat. A white band sweeps across its upper rump, and its lower rump is a dazzling bronze-purple. It also has beautiful orange cheek tufts that are tipped with green (2). 

The female short-crested coquette is duller than the male in appearance, and does not possess a crest or the distinctive cheek tufts. Its throat is whitish and the rest of its underparts are pale cinnamon. Both sexes possess a black bar near the end of their tail (2).

Usually, the short-crested coquette is a silent species, but it may sometimes produce sharp ‘chips’ (2).

The short-crested coquette has a restricted range, and has only been recorded from a 25 kilometre stretch of the Atoyac-Paraiso-Puerto el Gallo road in the Sierra de Atoyac, Mexico. It is known to be found near the villages of Arroyo Grande, Paraiso and Nueva Delhi (2).

The short-crested coquette inhabits both semi-humid lower montane and humid montane forests. The vegetation is a mixture of semi-deciduous and semi-humid evergreen. This species has been recorded at forest edges and on coffee plantations, at elevations of 900 to 1,800 metres. Local sightings at an altitude of 650 metres suggest that the short-crested coquette may migrate (2).

Breeding is thought to occur at higher altitudes from November to February, with lower altitudes occupied from March to August. Further research is required to determine the strength of this theory (2).

Information on the biology of the short-crested coquette is limited. However, it is likely to have aspects in common with other members of the hummingbird family.

Hummingbirds as a group are accomplished hoverers, with wings that can move in a symmetrical figure-of-eight and beat up to 80 times per second (5) (6). Hovering provides stability, so that the bird can insert its specialised, tubular tongue deep into flowers and draw up the energy-rich nectar that it feeds on (7). The short-crested coquette feeds specifically on the nectar of Inga and Cecropia flowers (2).

Hummingbirds have the highest energy output per unit weight of any warm-blooded animal, and therefore must feed regularly and abundantly to replace their energy supply (8). Foraging takes up most of a hummingbird’s daylight hours, and it consumes more than its body weight in food every day (7).

To compensate for their high metabolic rate, 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 (7) (9) (10). By entering a deep, sleep-like state, hummingbirds are able to significantly slow-down their metabolic rate and maintain a very low body temperature (7).

Hummingbirds are typically aggressive birds and will dive-bomb intruders to defend breeding and feeding areas. They may even stab competitors with their needle-like bill to ward them off. However, once any chicks have fledged, they will often abandon a territory and move off to find a new feeding area (7).

Although there is a lack of data for this species, the population of the short-crested coquette is believed to be in decline. Due to its restricted range, this species is particularly sensitive to human disturbance, such as habitat destruction (2). In the early 1990s semi-deciduous forest between Paraiso and Nueva Delhi was cleared to allow small-holder farming of maize, coffee and fruit. Estimating the extent of the resulting habitat loss and degradation has been problematic as the remaining forest provides cover for the growth of illegal drugs (2).

The short-crested coquette is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which serves to regulate the trade in this species (3).

There are no current specific conservation methods in place to protect the short-crested coquette. However, it is proposed that a protected area encompassing the range of this species should be established in the Sierra de Attoyac. In addition, surveys to clarify the distribution and altitudinal movements of this species, as well as the impact of coffee plantations, have been proposed (2).

Find out more about the short-crested coquette and other hummingbirds:

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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 (January, 2012)
  2. BirdLife International - Short-crested coquette (January, 2012)
  3. CITES (January, 2012)
  4. Piper, R. (2007) Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals. Greenwood Publishing Group, United States of America.
  5. Tobalsk, B. (2010) Hovering and intermittent flight in birds. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 5: 2.
  6. Suarez, R.K. (1992) Hummingbird flight: sustaining the highest mass-specific metabolic rates among vertebrates. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 48: 565.
  7. Smithsonian National Zoological Park- Hummingbirds (January, 2011)
  8. Greenewalt, C. (1960) Hummingbird. Doubleday & Company, Inc., New York
  9. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  10. Hainsworth, F.R., Collins, B.G. and Wolf, I.L. (1977) The function of torpor in hummingbirds. Physiological Zoology, 50: 215-222.