Marvellous Spatuletail Hummingbird

You may (or may not) have wondered about the inspiration behind the PeruNorth logo. Well, the animal we have chosen to symbolise Northern Peru is the Marvellous Spatuletail Hummingbird (Loddigesia mirabilis).

With Peru being home to some 20% of the world's bird species, numbering around 1,800, and 900 of those being found in the north of the country, with 40 endemics, there were rich pickings to choose from. 

The habitat of the Marvellous Spatuletail, in the valley of the Utcubamba River. 

There are a multitude of hummingbird species in habitats ranging from the Amazon rainforest in the East, to the coastal desert in the West. They can even be seen flitting from flower to flower in urban Lima

However, the Spatuletail really stands out. Growing up to 15 cm (6 inches) in length, and found only on the forest edges, near the Utcubamba River (a tributary of the Amazon), in the Department of Amazonas, it is a real, unique, and endemic beauty.

The male of the species has just four tail feathers, of which the two outer ones are long and racquet-shaped, crossing each other and ending in large violet-blue discs or 'spatules'. These are twice the length of the bird's body, and can be moved independently to create a semaphore-like language that is vital to send the right signals during courtship.

The Marvellous Spatuletail gets its name from its remarkable tail feathers. 

Aside from this remarkable feature, the Spatuletail has beautiful colouring. It is white, green and bronze, adorned with blue crest feathers, a brilliant turquoise gorget (throat), and a black line on its white underparts.

It is sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females exhibit different characteristics: in this case, the female's tail is much shorter - although it still shows the drop-shaped racquets - has a white gorget and lacks black on her underparts. 

Sadly, encroachment on the Spatuletail's already small habitat means that the species is endangered. It is also believed by the local community that the dried hearts of the males have aphrodisiac properties, which has led to hunting and exacerbated the decline. 

The entrance to the Huembo Reserve, with Marvellous Spatuletail featuring prominently. 

However, a Peruvian NGO, ECOAN, in conjunction with the American Bird Conservancy, has created the Huembo Reserve, 20 km (12 miles) from the town of Pedro Ruiz, and about an hour's drive north of Gocta Falls, in Amazonas. This is a 100-acre 'conservation easement' with the nearby Pomacochas Community, aimed at protecting and managing significant habitat for the Spatuletail. 

Some people are even more attached to the Marvellous Spatuletail Hummingbird than us! 

Here, feeders attract a wide variety of bird species, but with patience, you can expect to see the rare Spatuletail. To photograph them requires a good camera, with fast shutter speed, as they are never still for very long! 

A visit to the Huembo Reserve is a must for any serious birder, and so included on our 16-day birding itinerary.

We can also include a stop here on any journey between Tarapoto and Chachapoyas. Just ask us how.

Marvellous.