In Real Life
The marvelous spatuletail is a small hummingbird known for being the only species to feature two long outer tail feathers that feature purplish "spatules" on their ends, forming the basis for their common name. These spatules, also called racquets, are exclusively found on males, where they extend far from the bird's body on thin, long feathers and can be moved independently. During a courtship dance, the male will often extend the feathers upwards on their sides and fly around vigorously. Females also feature a set of long outer feathers, however, these do not extend far from the body and lack the iconic racquets.
Like all hummingbirds, the spatuletail's body is specialized for collecting nectar from long, tube-like flowers that it must constantly feed from due to the extreme use of physical energy from flight. In flight, a hummingbird's heart grows in size and beats over a thousand times per minute, pumping blood quickly enough to circulate through its entire body in a single second. Because of this extreme adapation, hummingbirds must feed on average every fifteen minutes. To accomodate this, hummingbirds have an exceptional memory and can easily recall which flowers they visited recently. During the night, to conserve energy, a hummingbird will enter torpor, slowing its heart rate to 1/100th of its usual rate, but becoming immobile, and therefore vulnerable to predators, at the same time. It can take up to half an hour in the morning after waking before a hummingbird will be able to fly.
Hummingbirds like the spatuletail are expert aviators, with a unique flight mechanism where rather than flapping their wings, they quickly rotate them in a figure-eight pattern at a range of 10-80 times per second, depending on the species. Because of this unique method of flight, hummingbirds are the only flying animals in the world capable of hovering in one spot and flying backwards. These allow the bird to more easily drink nectar. Because their bodies are so specialized for flight, they have made many sacrifices, and are no longer capable of walking on the ground, only momentarily perching on a branch until the next time to feed arrives.
The bird is endemic to northern Peru, particularly the Amazonas department, and prefers forested habitats rich in flowers containing the nectar it eats. It faces threats such as habitat loss due to deforestation and hunting for traditional medicine, as the heart of the bird and several other hummingbirds is believed to be an aphrodisiac. Because of these factors and its restrictively small range, its population has declined to less than a thousand individuals. However, in 2005, the American Bird Conservancy and the Peruvian conservation group ECOAN joined together to manage approximately 100 acres of land specifically to preserve the marvelous spatuletail, planting native fauna that need the bird's specific needs. This initiative was the first of its kind in Peru.
The marvelous spatuletail belongs to the tribe Heliantheini, a group known informally as the "brilliants" due to the inclusion of the genus Heliodoxa, which comprises of several species with "brilliant" in their common name. While the spatuletail is currently classified as the only member of the genus Loddigesia, DNA testing has shown that it belongs within the genus Eriocnemis, where a species with its specific name (mirabilis) already exists, the colorful puffleg. The debate on how to reclassify the spatuletail is currently ongoing due to this conflict. The bird was first reported in 1835 by Andrew Matthews, whose collected bird skin served as the basis for John Gould's monogram Loddigesia, depicted at left.