Rainbow-bearded thornbill - closeup, La Cocha
We attended the Páramo at La Cocha, with two particular birds on the wishlist. The Chestnut-bellied cotinga was on top of the list for its rarity. Occurring only above 3,100m asl in a very restricted range. We tried hard, but never found it, no sign of it at all. Luckily, we did find #2 on the list, the Rainbow-bearded Thornbill. Still fairly rare, and a whole lot more beautiful if you ask me.
Like all thornbills, it is characterized by its very short bill and relatively large size. But that is obviously not the characteristic that comes to mind when seeing this bird, it's the epic rainbow beard of the male. It is a bird of display and pride, as well as aggression. The male does not tolerate other males, nor does it tolerate any other hummingbird species at all.
We found this one by playback, a method we use in moderation, only in special scenarios. The observation lasted a few minutes. The bird was perfectly aware of us, yet seemed to ignore us. It was obsessively looking around to find the source of that other male's song (our playback). Only when approaching too close, would it relocate. We could approach it at about 7-10m with care, any closer was not comfortable for the bird.
They occur slightly below the Páramo (2700m) up to the lower Páramo zone (called Subpáramo). This observation was at 3,500m asl.
They feed on both nectar and insects. Although we did not see this behavior, for insects they forage on the ground, toss the insect into the air, and then catch it in mid-air. Or, they directly fly at insects with the bill open, like flycatchers.
The rainbow-bearded thornbill is a species of hummingbird in the Trochilidae family. It is found in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland.