Observation of the Week, 9/15/16

This Marvellous Spatuletail seen in Peru by @joanseptembre is our Observation of the Week!

Male hummingbirds are well known for their flashy, iridescent plumage but Marvellous Spauletail males take their courtship plumage and displays a bit further. Unique among birds, this species has only four tail feathers, and in males two of those feathers are extremely long (2-3 times body length) and end in large flat discs, or “spatules.” When courting, males hover in front of females and wave these spatules back and forth. They also make a snapping sound, which until recently was thought to be made by the feathers, until a BBC film crew showed the noise came from the bird’s beak. 

Marvellous Spatuletails live only a small area of the Peruvian rainforest, and were a target species for iNat user Joan Septembre (@joanseptembre) on her most recent trip to the country. She’d missed out on seeing them three years earlier, but made sure to visit Huembo Reserve this time, which is known for having a population of them. And sure enough, she saw at least two males come to one of the feeders in the reserve!

“They were smaller than many of the other hummingbirds, if you don't count the tail feathers, and much less aggressive,” she says. “They would sit in the bushes and wait until most of the other hummingbirds had gone...if it looked safe, they would go to the feeders for a very short time, then dart off again.” Many other hummingbirds would chase them off as well.

“I have a lot of fun taking photos for iNaturalist,” says Joan. “It makes me more aware of what is around me, things I wouldn't notice otherwise, [and] I feel that I get as much as I give when I post on iNaturalist.  I am ending up with a great record of some of the interesting plants and animals that I've seen in various places around the world, and they have been identified for me!...I hope that some of the things I've observed and photographed will be interesting for others to view, and useful for scientific research as well.”

- by Tony Iwane


- Pretty much everything about hummingbirds is amazing, especially in slow motion. Here’s a great one involving a wind tunnel.

- And another fun one from Earth Unplugged.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, September 15, 2016 21:41

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