Marvellous spatuletails are hummingbirds found only in the forest edges of a remote valley in northern Peru. They only have four tail feathers and in the male the outer two are elongated and end in a violet-blue disc or spatule. These remarkable tail feathers are frantically waved by the male as he hovers in front of the female during a display of his fitness as a mate. Alas, they also make him a target for a slingshot, hence males are outnumbered by more than five to one.
Scientific name: Loddigesia mirabilis
Ornamental tail feathers challenge male hummingbird flight.
A male spatule-tailed hummingbird woos a female with an incredible aerial display showing off its outrageous but cumbersome tail feathers. In fact, they are so cumbersome that the male can only stay airborne for a matter of seconds. But what wonderful seconds they are.
Species range provided by WWF's Wildfinder.
The following habitats are found across the Marvellous spatuletail distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Population trend: Decreasing
Year assessed: 2008
Classified by: IUCN 3.1
The marvellous spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis) is a medium-sized (up to 15 cm long) white, green and bronze hummingbird adorned with blue crest feathers, a brilliant turquoise gorget, and a black line on its white underparts. It is the only member of the monotypic genus Loddigesia. It is sexually dimorphic.
A Peruvian endemic, this species is found on forest edges in the Río Utcubamba region. It was first reported in 1835 by the bird collector Andrew Matthews for George Loddiges, after whom the genus is named.
The marvellous spatuletail is unique among birds in having just four feathers in its tail. Its most remarkable feature is the male's two long racquet-shaped outer tail feathers that cross each other and end in large violet-blue discs or "spatules". He can move them independently.
Due to ongoing habitat loss, small population size, and limited range, the marvellous spatuletail is evaluated as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed on Appendix II of CITES.
In 2006, American Bird Conservancy provided Peruvian conservation partner ECOAN with support to sign a conservation easement with the Pomacochas Community to protect and manage about 100 acres (0.40 km2) of significant habitat for the marvelous spatuletail hummingbird. Over 30,000 saplings of native trees and bushes have been planted there for the marvelous spatuletail. This conservation easement is the first of its kind in Peru.
The marvellous spatuletail has been featured on the PBS TV series Nature and the BBC TV series Natural World.