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.
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.
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