Scissor-tailed Hummingbird Hylonympha macrocerca


Justification of Red List category
This species is listed as Endangered because even though it appears to tolerate some habitat degradation, habitat loss and ongoing conversion of forest to agriculture are likely to be causing its already very small range to decline in extent and quality.

Population justification
The population size is has been estimated at 5,000-6,000 individuals (Sharpe 2015, Sharpe in litt. 2015). This equates to 3,333-4,000 mature individuals, rounded here to 3,000-4,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This is an understorey species that is likely to be affected by forest degradation, thus it is suspected to be declining at a rate of 1-19% over ten years.

Distribution and population

Hylonympha macrocerca is endemic to the Paria Peninsula in Sucre, north-east Venezuela, with records from cerros Humo, Patao, El Olvido and Azul. The only post-1980 records are from cerros Humo and El Olvido, but the extent of remaining habitat on cerros Patao and Azul indicates that the species is still present. It remains locally common or even abundant. In 1988, 4-8 birds per hectare were estimated on Cerro El Olvido, suggesting a population of c.1,000 individuals east of Cerro Patao (Bond et al. 1989). In 1993, 1.9 birds per hectare were estimated on Cerro Humo (Evans et al. 1994a), where there are c.15 km2 of intact habitat and additional areas of second growth.


It inhabits lower and upper montane humid forest, where it has been recorded at 800-1,200 m on Cerro Humo, and 530-920 m further east. In primary forest, it feeds mainly at bromeliad flowers and on their insect inhabitants, whereas in secondary forest, feeding is associated with the shrubs Heliconia aurea and Costus sp (Bond et al. 1989). Although it is regularly seen feeding on Heliconia in open areas it may nevertheless be dependent on the availability of pristine forest nearby (Bond et al. 1989, Sharpe in litt. 2015). It also hawks insects from exposed perches. There may be seasonal movements (C. J. Sharpe, J-P. Rodríguez and F. Rojas-Suárez in litt. 1999).


Increases in cash-crop agriculture, especially the cultivation of ocumo blanco (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) and ocumo chino (Colocasia esculenta), since the mid- to late 1980s have resulted in some uncontrolled burning and forest degradation. Cerros Humo and Patao have been worst affected, with the east of the peninsula fairly undisturbed. Since it is an understorey inhabitant, removal of understorey vegetation for coffee and cacao cultivation is likely to lead to reduced population density (C. Sharpe in litt. 2007, D. Ascanio in litt. 2007). In 2012, the state oil company PDVSA began preparations to construct antennas, a radar, and a heliport on the summit of Cerro Patao (the second highest summit of the Paria Peninsula), where a patch of 0.1 km2 of cloud forest remains (M. Santos in litt. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Considered Endangered at the national level in Venezuela (Sharpe 2008, 2015), and has been recognised as a high priority species, amongst the top dozen priorities for bird conservation in Venezuela (Rodríguez et al. 2004, Sharpe 2008). The species has been used as a symbol of conservation in villages adjacent to the park (Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1995). Its entire range is formally protected by the Paria Peninsula National Park (375 km2), but this has not entirely halted habitat degradation. In fact, this national park has always been chronically underfunded, even though it has been the target of some (admittedly rather ineffectual) international protected area strengthening programmes (Sharpe in litt. 2011, 2012). It still has no management plan, has insufficient budget, too few staff (four park guards in the 1980s-1990s, three in 2005, two in 2012, one of whom was a trainee), and inadequate means transport and communications (Sharpe 2001, Castillo and Salas 2005, Sharpe in litt. 2011, 2016, M. Santos in litt. 2012). This situation appears to be worsening (M. Santos in litt. 2012, Sharpe in litt. 2015, 2016).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Improve the protection and management of the national park (Sharpe 2008, 2015, Sharpe in litt. 2011). Census populations on cerros Humo, Patao, El Olvido and Azul (Sharpe 2008). Study its ecological requirements (C. J. Sharpe, J-P. Rodríguez and F. Rojas-Suárez in litt. 1999). Initiate programmes to develop economic alternatives to reduce agricultural encroachment in villages adjacent to the national park (Sharpe 2008, Sharpe in litt. 2011).


19 cm (includes 10 cm tail). Strikingly long-tailed hummingbird. Male predominantly dark green with glittering violet cap and blackish-green hind crown. Metallic green mantle washed golden. Glittering emerald breast. Rest of underparts darker green becoming blackish on belly. Blackish-purple tail with longer and broader lateral feathers. Female dark green above. Mainly white spotted green below. White centre of breast. Chestnut belly and undertail. Forked tail shorter than in male. Green central rectrices, distally blue, and cinnamon lateral feathers tipped buff. Long, slightly decurved, black bill. Similar spp. Male Venezuelan Sylph Aglaiocercus berlepschi is smaller with short, straight bill.Voice A thin, high metallic chittering.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Capper, D., Isherwood, I., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A.

Pérez-Emán, J., Rojas-Suárez, F., Santos, M., Sharpe, C J, Rodríguez, J., Ascanio, D.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Hylonympha macrocerca. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/scissor-tailed-hummingbird-hylonympha-macrocerca on 07/12/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 07/12/2023.