The Black-eared Fairy or Green-chinned Fairy (Heliothryx auritus) is a South American hummingbird that occurs naturally in the Amazon rainforest with a disjunct population in eastern Brazil.
Alternate (Global) Names
Spanish: Colibrí Hada de Orejas Azules, Colibrí Hada Oriental, Hada Oriental … Portuguese: Beija-flor-de-bochecha-azul, beija-flor-fada … French: Colibri oreillard …Italian: Capello di sole orecchie nere, Fatina guancenere … German: Schwarzohr-Schmuckkolibri … German: Schwarzohrelfe, Schwarzohr-Schmuckkolibri … Czech: kolib?ík ?ernouchý, Kolibrík zlatovlasý … Danish: Sortøret Alfekolibri … Finnish: Viherkeijukolibri … Japanese: mimigurosennyohachidori … Latin: Heliothryx aurita, Heliothryx auritus … Dutch: Zwartkopfeeënkolibrie, Zwartkop-feeünkolibrie … Norwegian: Grønnkronealv … Polish: skrzacik czarnouchy … Portuguese: Baija-flor-de-bochecha-azul, beija-flor-de-bochecha-azul, Beija-flor-fada …Russian: ??????? ???????, ????????? ???????-???, ????????? ??????? ??????? … Slovak: jagavicka bielobruchá, Kolibrík ?iernopásikavý … Swedish: Svartkindad blomnymf
Distribution / Habitat
The Black-eared Fairy is native to the following South American countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
They are mostly found in or near humid lowland forests.
Subspecies and Distribution
- Heliothryx auritus auritus (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Nominate Race
- Found in the tropical south-eastern Colombia to Venezuela, the Guianas and northern Brazil
- Heliothryx auritus auriculata / auriculatus (Nordmann, 1835)
- Found in tropical eastern Peru, Bolivia to central and eastern Brazil (Amazonia south of Amazon through Mato Grosso to Alagoas and Bahia, and south to Espírito Santo, vagrant to Santa Catarina).
Heliothryx auritus phainolaema (Gould, 1855)
- Found in north central Brazil south of Amazon in the Brazilian states of Pará and Maranhão
- Heliothryx auritus auritus (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Nominate Race
This medium-sized hummingbird has as bright green upper plumage and is white below. It has a black face mask. Its black bill is short and straight. The tail is blue-back in the center with white outer tail feathers. When perched, the tail looks mostly white from below and blue-black from the back or above.
The female looks similar, but has a longer tail.
Similar Species: They resemble the Purple-crowned Fairy found in southeastern Mexico south to southwestern Ecuador. However, the male of that species has a purple crown. Females of either species are identifical. However, since these two species don’t overlap in distribution, identification is usually not a problem.
Nesting / Breeding
Hummingbirds are solitary in all aspects of life other than breeding; and the male’s only involvement in the reproductive process is the actual mating with the female. They neither live nor migrate in flocks; and there is no pair bond for this species. Males court females by flying in a u-shaped pattern in front of them. He will separate from the female immediately after copulation. One male may mate with several females. In all likelihood, the female will also mate with several males. The males do not participate in choosing the nest location, building the nest or raising the chicks.
The female Black-eared Fairy is responsible for building the cup-shaped nest out of plant fibers woven together and green moss on the outside for camouflage in a protected location in a shrub, bush or tree about 10 – 100 ft (3-30 m) above ground. The nest is typically found on a low, thin horizontal branch. She lines the nest with soft plant fibers, animal hair and feather down, and strengthens the structure with spider webbing and other sticky material, giving it an elastic quality to allow it to stretch to double its size as the chicks grow and need more room.
The average clutch consists of two white eggs, which she incubates alone for about 15 days, while the male defends his territory and the flowers he feeds on. The young are born blind, immobile and without any down.
The female alone protects and feeds the chicks with regurgitated food (mostly partially-digested insects since nectar is an insufficient source of protein for the growing chicks). The female pushes the food down the chicks’ throats with her long bill directly into their stomachs.
As is the case with other hummingbird species, the chicks are brooded only the first week or two, and left alone even on cooler nights after about 12 days – probably due to the small nest size.
The female Black-eared Fairy uses a gliding fall (like falling leaves) as she exits the nest. It is believed that this is to protect her or the nest against hawk predators. (Ref.: Journal of Ornithology Volume 131, Number 3, 333-335, DOI: 10.1007/BF01641006, author: Renato Cintra).
The chicks leave the nest when they are about 23 – 26 days old. The young will reach breeding age in their second year.
Diet / Feeding
The Black-eared Fairies primarily feed on nectar taken from a variety of brightly colored, scented small flowers of trees, herbs, shrubs and epiphytes. They favor flowers with the highest sugar content (often red-colored and tubular-shaped) and seek out, and aggressively protect, those areas containing flowers with high energy nectar.They use their long, extendible, straw-like tongues to retrieve the nectar while hovering with their tails cocked upward as they are licking at the nectar up to 13 times per second. Sometimes they may be seen hanging on the flower while feeding. They may also pierce small holes at the base of large flowers, allowing them to access nectar that would otherwise only be reachable by hummingbirds with longer bills.
Many native and cultivated plants on whose flowers these birds feed heavily rely on them for pollination. The mostly tubular-shaped flowers actually exclude most bees and butterflies from feeding on them and, subsequently, from pollinating the plants.
They may also visit local hummingbird feeders for some sugar water, or drink out of bird baths or water fountains where they will either hover and sip water as it runs over the edge; or they will perch on the edge and drink – like all the other birds; however, they only remain still for a short moment.
They also take some small spiders and insects – important sources of protein particularly needed during the breeding season to ensure the proper development of their young. Insects are often caught in flight (hawking); snatched off leaves or branches, or are taken from spider webs. A nesting female can capture up to 2,000 insects a day.
Males establish feeding territories, where they aggressively chase away other males as well as large insects – such as bumblebees and hawk moths – that want to feed in their territory. They use aerial flights and intimidating displays to defend their territories.
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