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During the breeding season, males of this species are very visible, with bright blue underparts, black wings, back, and eye mask, and bright red legs. The crown of its head is turquoise, and the underwing, visible only in flight, is lemon yellow. Outside of the breeding season, however, the male is green overall, with black wings, tail, and eye mask, and brownish legs. Females are green year-round, with brown legs and eye stripes. Juveniles are similar to females in coloration.
Both sexes are roughly similar in size, with a length of about five inches and weight of less than an ounce.
Distribution and Habitat
Red-legged honeycreepers are fairly common from southern Mexico to Argentina, as well as on the islands of Cuba, Trinidad, and Tobago. They prefer the canopy and sub-canopy of tropical rain forests but are also found in secondary woodlands, as well as clearings with scattered trees and shrubs. They choose broadleaf trees over pine species, mostly below 3,600 feet, but are seasonally found at higher elevations. They are also common in residential areas and cocoa and citrus plantations.
Red-legged honeycreepers breed from January to June, depending on location. The cup-like nest, built by the female, is suspended by its rim from a twig up to 50 feet off the ground. Two white eggs with brown markings are incubated by the female for 12-13 days. The young are fed by both parents until fledging at about two weeks of age.
The red-legged honeycreeper usually forages in the canopy, searching for insects on small branches, or catching them in flight. It also feeds lower, picking ripe fruits and eating the seeds inside. Its recurved bill allows it to extract the pulp of an orange (or other fruit) through holes made by woodpeckers, as well as to take nectar from flowers.
Red-legged honeycreepers are rarely seen alone, preferring to gather and travel in flocks of up to twenty individuals. It is not uncommon for flocks of a hundred or more to congregate at rich food sources, such as flowering trees.
Some populations are resident year-round, while others migrate during the winter. Those that do migrate do not travel far, however, generally moving down to lower altitudes rather than flying long distances.
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This page was last updated on July 27, 2017.