The Purple Honeycreeper

Purple honeycreeper, male; Asa Wright, Trinidad

Purple honeycreeper, male; Asa Wright, Trinidad

Honeycreepers are a bird species found only in the tropical New World, they are small birds in the tanager (Thraupidae) family. Like hummingbirds, their long, curved bills serve to reach inside tubular flowers seeking nectar.

 

They live and forage in the rainforest canopy, and are sexually dimorphic (male and female differ in appearance).

 

The purple honeycreeper, Cyanerpes caeruleus, can be found in various parts of South America and on the Caribbean Island of Trinidad. They feed on nectar, berries, and insects.

 

Having recently returned from Trinidad, I had the joy of seeing many of these purple honeycreepers.

 

Purple honeycreeper males on nectar feeders, Asa Wright, Trinidad

Purple honeycreeper males on nectar feeders, Asa Wright, Trinidad

We stayed at a lodge in the rainforest, Asa Wright, that is dedicated to the natural environment and the wildlife of the Trinidad rainforest.  Here they have a verandah with numerous nectar feeders and feeding stations.

 

The purple honeycreepers visit the feeders all day long. They zip and zoom, just like hummingbirds, and there is a constant territorial battle among the other honeycreepers and hummingbirds that frequent here.

 

Purple honeycreeper, female, Trinidad

Purple honeycreeper, female, Trinidad

There are hundreds of birds coming and going all day long, it is difficult, even for an experienced birder, to be accurate in identifying the many different species; and then within each species, identifying the males, females, and juveniles.

 

Sitting at dinner one night at a long table with other lodgers, we were talking about the birds. I heard someone remark on how they liked the little black toenails on the purple honeycreeper.

 

I had been studying the purple honeycreepers–mesmerized by the male’s rich, cobalt color and contrasting bright yellow legs, the markings of the dark throat and moustachial stripe–but I had not noticed the black toenails.

 

What a pleasure it was then, to return to the verandah to study more of this stunning creature.

 

Photo credit: Athena Alexander

 

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109 thoughts on “The Purple Honeycreeper

  1. Welcome back Jet! I hope you had a marvelous time away. If one were not to see the fabulous photos the name purple honeycreeper sounds like it would be a snake or rodent. I’ve not thought of birds as those who creep about. What a lovely delight to see this vibrant coloring and I love the female trying to use up every color of a dozen rainbows in her plumage. Nice that she had her toenails painted black to finish off the outfit. 🙂

    • So many show-stopping birds in the Trinidad rainforest, I look forward to sharing more. I’m happy you enjoyed the purple honeycreepers, Amy. (And oh how I enjoyed your Thai market this morning.)

  2. What a wonderful sight to be able to observe the Purple Honeycreeper showing off its royal colors of purple and dark blue with the addition of those long vibrant lemon yellow leggings! I can picture this bird glowing in the sunlight. I always enjoy your photos of wildlife while taken during your adventures into areas uninhabited by humans. Thanks.

    • Your comment is much appreciated, SWI. The rainforest is a tricky place to be for any length of time because it is so untame, but that is exactly what brings in the wildlife, those uninhabited venues. You’re right in that the birds do glow in the sunlight, that’s your artist’s eye and mind at work, serving you well. I am so glad you enjoyed it, my friend.

  3. Welcome back! These are beautiful birds – easy to see why you and Athena enjoyed watching them. I kept scrolling up and down to choose a favourite, then realized I didn’t have to – they’re equally delightful. (Even the name is great. “Hi, I’m a purple honeycreeper, and I’m as cool as I sound…”)
    Thanks, Jet!

    • Oh how I loved this dialog, pc. It’s uncanny that I heard one of them saying that to me. Absolutely uncanny. Thanks so much for the welcoming and fun comment — always a true pleasure. Have a wonderful weekend, maybe some more waddling through the snow?

  4. The purple honeycreeper (male) is a beauty! The female is too but in a simpler way. I haven’t seen one of these birds in person but even in pictures they look so stunningly beautiful! 🙂

  5. The colors took my breath away, Jet! Nature in all Her variety keeps me entertained and always always amazes me. I never even knew this little bird existed until now so I really thank you for this post. ❤

    • What a lovely message this is, Gunta. I am back from cavorting in the rainforest, all the insect bites are fading, and I am happy to be back. More adventures to follow, and many thanks for your kind thoughts and visit.

    • In the tropics everything from the people and their houses, to the birds and the flowers are about color. I am happy to bring some of it to you, David. Thank you for your visits.

  6. What GLORIOUS birds! And stunning photographs. Interesting about the toenails, too. Never would have noticed them. But I did go back to the picture and look! You teach us so much, J. Welcome home.

  7. Welcome back and how wonderful you were able to see this beautiful bird and hundreds of others. I think we have about seven different birds that are visiting on a regular basis. The first photo of the honeycreeper is fantastic and their purple coloring is amazing. Thanks for introducing me to another new bird and I look forward to learning more about the Trinidad rainforest.

    • I so enjoy your enthusiasm for life, ACI, and look forward to sharing more of the Trinidad rainforest. And what a pleasure that is to contemplate. And more incredible birds to follow! I have been enjoying your winter posts and birds, and your artful photography…and before you know it spring will be here. 🙂

  8. What a gorgeous bird! And the male and female look completely different., although to my eye both are beautiful 😊 Thanks for this very interesting and informative post, Jet!

    • Of all the birds that came to these feeders, none of the species had similar-looking male and female, so it was a challenge, to be sure. But what a delightful challenge! And I agree with you, Helen, both genders glow with beauty. I enjoyed your visit, as always…thank you.

  9. I saw a Blue Honey creeper in Panama – it suddenly became one of my favorite birds ever! There is something so special about the Honeycreepers’ beak and shape and behaviors;) The purple of this one is astonishing.

    • Hi BJ! The honeycreepers are indeed a joy to have on this planet. Their bright colors, cool-looking bills, and busy activity keep us bird-lovers on our toes and forever dreaming. I am glad you’ve had the delight of Panama. Thank you for stopping by.

      • After I saw your brilliant purple ones, I checked back on my Panama pics. The ones I saw there were a rich blue, and with red legs, hence their name is actually Red-legged Honeycreeper.

      • I am really glad to know the name of the bird, BJ. When I got your first comment I looked up the blue honeycreeper in Panama and saw there was no such species, but now I am delighted to know it was the red-legged. We saw this honeycreeper from a far distance (the red legs are so distinct!) but now have the joy of dreaming about Panama to see the blue. Life is so rich, yes? Have a delightful Sunday, my friend~~

  10. Good morning Jet…You have painted with words such a beautiful picture. I can well imagine these lovely birds flitting from one bloom to another almost appearing to be sparkling jewels. Asa Wright looks like a superb place to visit….I have very good friends who grew up in Trinidad who get to visit this wonderful place every year….it needs to go onto my bucket list. Hoping you are enjoying a lovely weekend….Janet. 🙂

    • I thought of you while I was on that verandah, Janet, knowing you would be in heaven here with all the hummingbirds. I noticed there were many British guests visiting there. And now that I know you have dear friends who visit every year, I think you should join them on their next visit. I think it’s uncanny that you have good friends who go there every year! Stay tuned for more posts, more hummingbirds…. 🙂

      • I am actually visiting one of those friends tomorrow….and so will talk to her about the possibility…she and her husband are both artists….Greta originally from Trinidad – Martin from the UK….when I looked at the pictures, I knew this would be a place I would love. Looking for ward to your next posts. Do enjoy the day – may it be filled with creativity…..Janet. 🙂

      • Oh how synchronistic! Have a great time “liming” with your friends, Janet; I hope you can figure out a way to go to Asa Wright. As they will no doubt tell you, it is in the rainforest, so it’s not a luxury accommodation; but it is comfortable, and clean, well maintained, and there is plenty of delicious food and drink always. My next post (Fri.) will be another spectacular hummingbird, you will not believe the feather design!

    • I’ll do that Wayne — so glad you enjoyed both the hummingbirds I shared from Trinidad. Later this week I’m featuring the bats. It’s a wonderful tropical world, I’m glad to share it with you.

      • These were bats in Trinidad, we watched an emergence every night. Very cool. The white nose syndrome on bats is more prevalent in the eastern U.S. than the west, but one case has been found in Washington State. It’s a terrible thing, but scientists are working hard to prevent it from spreading. Cheers to you, Wayne~~

  11. Before reading about the black toe nails…I was doing the same thing….admiring the sheer beauty of the bird…the feather coloring..the legs..etc… I too would not have noticed the black toe nails had you not written about it….great post as always!!

    • Yes, there is so much beauty in the purple honeycreeper, it’s impossible to see it all at one time. How fortunate that we saw many, and so very fun to share with you, Kirt. Thank you for your visit and cheerful comments — always appreciated.

    • Thank you so very much, Sriram. The colors of the birds in Trinidad are so vibrant, and this little purple honeycreeper is one of my favorites. I’m happy to share it with you. 🙂

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