Though relatively drab when seen in dim light, the brown violet-ear shines in sunlight when its iridescent cheek and throat are illuminated with a rainbow of sparkles. A tropical hummingbird, this is one of only four violetear hummingbird species.
Brown Violet-Ear, Brown Violetear
- Bill: Relatively short, dark, straight
- Size: 4.5 inches long with 6-inch wingspan, long tail, stocky build
- Colors: Brown, gray-buff, blue, green, purple, black, iridescent, rufous
- Markings: Genders are similar though males may show more iridescence on the throat and slightly larger auricular patches. Plumage is dusky brown overall with slightly darker upperparts and paler gray-buff underparts. The face is marked with a bright iridescent purple auricular patch that may appear black in poor light, and the malar area between the auricular patch and throat is pale buff. The gorget is narrow and shows iridescent green and purple with a blue lower border in bright light. The wings and tail are brown-black with paler tips on the tail feathers. The rump is rufous and the undertail coverts also show a rufous wash. Some faint, blurry dark streaks may be visible on the upper breast. Juvenile brown violet-ears have less purple in the auriculars and show buff fringes on the upperpart feathers, as well as a yellow gape at the base of the bill. Species is monotypic.
Nectar, insects, spiders (See: Nectivorous)
Habitat and Migration:
These tropical hummingbirds prefer humid evergreen forest edges and shrubby areas, and they can also be seen in forest canopies and bird-friendly shade coffee plantations. They do not migrate seasonally, though after the breeding season they may move into more lowland areas instead of the lower elevations of mountain slopes. Their range extends from Guatemala and Belize south to Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela, as well as northeastern Brazil. An isolated population is also present on Trinidad and another in central eastern Brazil.
Brown violet-ears are vocal hummingbirds that may sing frequently all year long. The song is a series of high pitched "chit" notes repeated at regular intervals, typically with 3-9 syllables per sequence. The basic call note is a single "chit" note.
These hummingbirds are very aerobatic flyers and can be highly aggressive at feeding areas, often chasing away other hummingbirds to protect a favored feeding spot or hummingbird feeder. They can be tolerant of other bird species, however, and do not typically defend any territory other than a feeding area. While feeding, they frequently hawk insects, catching them out of the air.
These are polygamous hummingbirds and the male has no role in nest building, incubation or raising chicks. Males do perform elaborate courtship displays, however, often gathering in leks from 3-8 birds or as many as a dozen or more in heavy population concentrations to sing and fly U-shaped dives to entice females. After mating, the female will build a cup-shaped nest from soft plant down and similar fibers held together with spider webs in a bush or tree, typically 3-10 feet above the ground. Each brood contains 2 plain, white eggs, though because these birds have not been extensively studied, little is known about their incubation period, and it is not known if they produce multiple broods each year.
After hatching, the female brown violet-ear cares for the altricial young for 9-14 days until the young birds are ready to leave the nest.
Attracting Brown Violet-Ears:
In the appropriate range, brown violet-ears will easily visit hummingbird feeders offering nectar. Spacing feeders widely will help minimize these birds' aggression and encourage more individuals and additional hummingbird species to visit. Adding flowers that attract hummingbirds and providing thicket-like brushy areas will not only supply additional food sources, but will serve as cover to provide these birds security. Insecticide use should be minimized or eliminated so as not to remove critical insects as a food source.
Brown violet-ears are not considered endangered or threatened, though they are subject to habitat loss from agricultural development. Bird-friendly coffee plantations that use shade growing methods to preserve edges and shrubby habitat help provide this species with adequate foraging and breeding grounds. In many areas, brown violet-ears are found only in fragmented, uncommon populations, but those results may be due to the birds' dull plumage that can be easily overlooked.