Arguably the most spectacular and unusual hummingbird in the world, some birdwatchers have stated that it seems like the bird is being mobbed by two butterflies.
NPA: Cordillera de Colan National Sanctuary (Important Bird Area).
Endemic: Yes, restricted to a very small area (estimated 110 km2) of the northern Cordillera de Colan, east of the Utcubamba river in Amazonas.
Extraordinary tail of male reduced to only 2 pairs of rectrices: a long straight central pair, and a very long, racket-tipped, outer pair that bob independently of body movement. It has a glittering blue crown and green gorget. Female has a white below, speckled with green; and long, largely white outer rectrices.
Length: male 14 cm (5 1/2 in), not including long rackets; female 9-10 cm (3 1/2 - 4 in), bill 1.4 cm (1/2 in).
Best Time for observation: Between November and June.
Habitat: Forages low at edge of humid forest, in second growth, and in dense shrubbery.
Endemic Species of Peru.
Should there be a vote on the best and most wanted bird of Peru, the Marvelous Spatuletail would likely come out as number one. It is the star bird of the Northern Birding route.
The species is confined only to Amazonas department. It used to be very hard to see a full male. It was thought that there was an skewed sex ratio, and that females which lacks the long-shafted battles were more common than males, as people searched for the birds along the roadside near Pomacochas. However, when with the help of local guides such as Santos Montenegro, who took birders to small patches of dense secondary growth with lots of flowers it became clear that it was a habitat difference between females and males. Away from the road males were more common than females!
There was also concern of males being hunted to extract the hearts for human consumption, allegedly good for sexual performance, but it turned out when interviewing local people that this was not specific to Marvelous Spatuletail and luckily not a particularly common practice. Locally, the Marvelous Spatuletail is not that uncommon, but it is stealthy and often hard to see well as it dashes through dense foliage.
Presently, the best place to see one is at Huembo near Pomacochas, but birders also regularly see them at Kentitambo in Leimebamba, close to Kuelap and Gocta waterfalls. To see the display is more difficult, but it has often been recorded between November and June near Huembo. During the months of July and August it may be more difficult to find a male with spatules as they molt their tail feathers this time of year. It is quite possible to make a 5 day trip from Tarapoto to Pomacochas to see the Spatuletail as well as many of great birds in Abra Patricia and Moyobamba areas.
Text by Gunnar Engblom.