One of the largest hummingbirds, the swallow-tailed hummingbird is also one of the most beautiful, graceful and distinctive.
Swallow-Tailed Hummingbird, Brazilian Swallowtail, Common Swallowtail
- Bill: Needle thin, black, slightly decurved
- Size: 6-6.5 inches long with 7-inch wingspan, long forked tail
- Colors: Blue, purple, green, white, black, brown
- Markings: Genders are similar with an iridescent green body and iridescent blue or purple head, throat and chest. Wings are dark brown or black and the long, forked tail is blue-green. A prominent white spot is visible behind the eye. Females are generally smaller and duller than males, and juvenile birds have a brownish tinge on the head.
Habitat and Migration:
Swallow-tailed hummingbirds are common year-round residents in southeastern Brazil, southern Bolivia and along the coast of French Guiana. They can be readily found in urban and suburban open areas such as parks and gardens, where they will feed on flowers or flowering trees. These hummingbirds do not migrate.
These birds use a fast, sharp “tik” call when alarmed, and elongated “seek” or “seee-eeek” calls for communication. Weak chittering is another common vocalization.
Because of its large size, the swallow-tailed hummingbird is a dominant bird and can be very aggressive. Both males and females will dive bomb and chase intruders away from feeders, nectar-rich flowers and nesting areas. In addition to feeding on nectar, they will hawk insects in flight.
Male swallow-tailed hummingbirds sing in leks to court females, and their courtship behavior includes a rapid zig-zag flight dance with a mate. After a successful mating, the female will lay 2 eggs and incubate them for 14-16 days. The altricial young remain in the nest and are cared for by the female parent for 22-24 days, and after leaving the nest they will remain nearby for another 14-20 days. Swallow-tailed hummingbirds raise 1-2 broods per year.
Attracting Swallow-Tailed Hummingbirds:
Swallow-tailed hummingbirds readily visit nectar feeders, but because they can be so aggressive many backyard birders prefer to widely space feeders to lessen feeding competition. Planting flowers to attract hummingbirds and avoiding the use of pesticides are other ways to attract these brilliant birds.