The Fork-tailed Woodnymph (Thalurania furcata) – also known as a Common Woodnymph – is a South American hummingbird.
Alternate (Global) Names
Spanish: Ninfa mexicana, Ninfa Morada, Picaflor zafiro, Picaflor záfiro, Zafiro Golondrina … Portuguese: beija-flor-de-barriga-violeta, beija-flor-tesoura-verde … Italian: Ninfa dei boschi codaforcuta … French: Dryade à queue fourchue … Czech: Kolibrík cernopásý, kolib?ík nymfový … Danish: Santa Marta-skovnymfe … German: Schwalbennymphe … Finnish: Törmäneitokolibri … Guarani: Mainumby … Japanese: embimorihachidor … Dutch: Vorkstaartbosnimf … Norwegian: Gaffeldryade … Polish: widlogonek zielonogardly, wid?ogonek zielonogard?y … Russian: ??????????? ????????? … Slovak: dryáda vidlochvostá … Swedish: Svalstjärtad skogsnymf
Distribution / Range
The Fork-tailed Woodnympth occurs in lowland forests east of the Andes.
Specifically it is native to northern Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and northeast Venezuela.
In Brazil, where it is known as beija-flor-tesoura-verde, it occurs just about everywhere, except the extreme south.
They are usually seen in forests and along forest edges, but are also found in semi-open areas and gardens.
Sub-species and Ranges
Thalurania furcata furcata – Nominate Species (J. F. Gmelin, 1788)
- Range: Extreme East Venezuela, the Guianas and North-east Brazil (north of Amazon)
Thalurania furcata refulgens (Gould, 1853)
- Range: Northeast Venezuela
Thalurania furcata fissilis (Berlepsch and Hartert, 1902)
- Range: East Venezuela and extreme West Guyana and Northeast Brazil
Thalurania furcata orenocensis (Hellmayr, 1921)
- Range: Upper Orinoco region of S Venezuela
Thalurania furcata nigrofasciata (Gould, 1846)
- Range: Southeast Colombia, Northwest Brazil and extreme South Venezuela
Thalurania furcata viridipectus (Gould, 1848)
- Range: Eastern foothills of Andes and lowlands of Eastern Colombia, Eastern Ecuador and Northeast Peru
Thalurania furcata jelskii (Taczanowski, 1860)
- Range: Eastern Peru and Brazil
Thalurania furcata simoni (Hellmayr, 1906)
- Range: Upper Amazon region (South of Amazon) in Eastern Peru and West Brazil
Thalurania furcata balzani (Simon, 1896)
- Range: North-central Brazil (South of Amazon)
Thalurania furcata furcatoides (Gould, 1861)
- Range: Lower Amazon region of Eastern Brazil (South of Amazon)
Thalurania furcata boliviana (Boucard, 1894)
- Range: Andean foothills and lowlands of Southeast Peru and Northeast Bolivia
Thalurania furcata baeri Hellmayr, 1907
- Range: Northeast and Central Brazil to Southeast Bolivia and Northwest and North-central Argentina
Thalurania furcata eriphile (Lesson, 1832)
- Range: Southeast Brazil, Paraguay and Northeast Argentina (Misiones)
The male Fork-tailed Woodnymph has a bluish / somewhat violet chest and abdomen and this color can also be seen in a narrow band across the back of his neck. He has a glittering green throat. His plumage is bronzy green above and white on his thighs and undertail coverts (feathers).
The female is pale grey below and has white tips on the outer three tail feathers.
The medium-sized beak is black and source sources describe it as straight, while others as slightly curved – this may be a difference between the subspecies.
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 Fork-tailed Woodnymph 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. 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 nest is typically found on a low, thin horizontal branch.
The average clutch consists of two white eggs, which she incubates alone, 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 chicks leave the nest when they are about 20 days old.
Diet / Feeding
The Fork-tailed Woodnymphs 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.
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 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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