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Agelastes, Aglaeactis,and Aglaiocercus A-Z of Bird Genera

Updated on January 28, 2016

Agelastes meleagrides


Agelastes nigra



In this series A-Z of Bird genera we review the species within certain genera. The species are diverse both in size and form and they occur throughout the world. In this article we review another five genera. We commence with the genus Agelastes.

The genus Agelastes is a genus of birds that belong to the family Numididae in the order Galliformes. The genus contains just two species. The White Breasted Guineafowl and the Black Guineafowl.

The White Breasted Guineafowl, Agelastes meleagridis, {image above}, is bird which is distributed in sub-tropical west Africa in the forests of, Liberia, Ghana, Guinea and Sierra Leon. It is a striking ,medium sized ground bird with a very characteristic appearance and it is the rarest Guinesfowl species in west Africa. It has a completely bald red head and upper neck. White breast and collar and a black body plumage that is broken by a few very fine white lines. The tail of this species is relatively long and the long legs are greyish brown or greyish black. The beak is greenish brown.

The male has one or two spurs on the legs and is slightly larger than the female but they are difficult to tell apart in the field. There is very little recorded of the behaviour of this species as regards to their breeding habits are concerned. However, they are thought to breed on the ground in the security of the undergrowth, although there are unconfirmed reports that they have been seen nesting in trees. The female will deposit about a dozen reddish-buff eggs are probably laid in each clutch. After hatching the young birds keep in close proximity of their parents. It appears that the species may breed throughout the year the young having been encountered between November and May.

They tend to live in groups of between ten and twenty individuals, foraging on the forest floor. if they are disturbed they tend to scatter into the forest where they may fly up into the trees for extra safety. They also roost in the understory of the trees. Their diet consists of invertebrates, berries and fallen seed. They are typical Galliformes, scratching at the floor as they seek their food when walking. They are very vocal birds making a variety of excited whistles and twittering noises. This species is classed as being Vulnerable by the IUCN, due to hunting pressures and poaching. Due to the intervention of the Presidents of Sierra Leone and Liberia conservation efforts are underway in these regions which can only benefit these birds.

The second species in this genus is the Black Guineafowl, Agelastes niger. This species occurs in the humid forests of central Africa and is much more secretive than the previous species, indeed it is more often heard than seen. Once again little has been recorded about the behaviour of this species. It is a shy elusive bird of the forest floor favouring thick undergrowth ,however, it sometimes strays onto adjacent cultivated land. The feeding habits are similar to the above species.

It occurs in countries including Cameroon, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, and Angola. Although they seem to be victims of habitat degradation, there are no current conservation dangers.

Hummingbird incubating

Taken in Chile
Taken in Chile | Source

Portrait of Hummingbirds


Hummingbird feeding


The genus Agalaeactis.

The genus Aglaeactis is a genus of Hummingbirds that occur in the Trochilidae family in the order of birds known as the Apodiformes. It consists of four species. before we commence with the species there follows a brief summary of general information on Hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds have a unique shoulder structure which allows the wings to beat extremely fast in a figure of eight motion, up to two hundred wing beats per second. This in turn allows them to hover in unique positions when feeding. However, this uses a large amount of energy and nectar is the best high energy food for them. They feed on up to one to two thousand flowers per day.

Although they are placed in the order Apodiformes, which also contains the Swifts some authorities place them in their own order of Trochiliformes. As far as it is known male Hummingbirds do not take part in the construction of the nest or in rearing of the young. Most species build a cup-shaped nest on the branch of a tree with some tropical species attaching their nest to the trunk.

The females of most species will lay two white eggs and she will incubate them for a period of between fourteen and twenty three days depending on the species. The resulting chicks will be fed small arthropods and nectar. This is achieved by inserting her bill into the open mouth of th chick and regurgitating the food from her crop. South American countries have a tremendous number of species, indeed Ecuador a relatively small country has about one hundred and thirty species.

Most Hummingbirds also occur in the USA, and Canada migrate south to spend the winter in Mexico, the Caribbean or Central America. A few species are resident in California and south western desert regions of the USA.

Shining Sunbeam


The shining sunbeam Alaeactis cupripennis

We commence with the beautifully named Shining Sunbeam Alaeactis cupripennis. This species is found in the tropical and sub-tropical moist mountain forests and high altitude shrub-land. this species has a relatively short and straight bill, compared to many other Hummingbirds. The male has a metallic dusky brown above, darker on the crown and ear coverts. There is an area of shining purple on the lower back becoming coppery on the rump and green on the upper tail. The face and under parts tend to be a cinnamon-rufous colouring The tail is a bronzy olive colour. The female is similar to the male but lack most of the glittering on the back and rump. because they have no white on their plumage they are readily distinguished from other species in this genus. there are two recognized sub-species.

Most populations migrate seasonally to lower altitudes. They forage mainly on nectar, but will supplement arthropods, this with arthropods, males will aggressively defend their feeding territories. They are not a species of conservation concern

Illustration of the Purple backed sunbeam


Black-hooded Sunbeam Illustration.


The other species.

Aglaeactis aliciae, is the Purple backed Sunbeam, it is a bird endemic to Peru, where it inhabits high altitude shrub-land and plantations. Much of its habitat has been destroyed but populations still survive. It is classed as being Endanger, with a total population number of one thousand birds being the estimate. it favours the partially open slopes of the Andes that play host to Alder trees or shrubs and they feed on the nectar of flowering Mistletoe and insects.

These birds are mostly brown with white on the upper chest , lower throat and face. the lower back shows a purple hue in certain lights. there are no records of anyone seeing the nest of this species but it is thought that they build the nest near by a nectar source in branches hidden from direct sunlight.

Aglaeactis castelnoudii, is the White Tufted Sunbeam, is another species endemic to Peru, in the tropical and sub-tropical high altitude shrub-land in mountainous regions. It takes its name from the distinctive tufts of white flowers on its chest. The copper coloured tail is also distinctive as is the magenta colouring on the lower back and rump.

They inhabit the drier mountain forests, open shrub and glades in semi-dry forests. they are often encountered perching on high dead twigs. However, studies have shown where they overlap with the shining sunbeam they tend to be more reclusive and perch much lower down In dense cover. There are no current conservation concerns.

Aglaeactis pamela, is the Black Hooded Subeam endemic to Bolivia and inhabit the tropical and sub-tropical mountainous forest and shrub land, generally in the humid cloud forests and on humid slopes. these large hummingbirds are purplish black with a metallic blue or green lower back, a rufous tail, and a white chest tufts. there are no current conservation concerns.

Long-tailed Sylph

Taken in N.E.Ecuador
Taken in N.E.Ecuador | Source

Female in Colombia


The genus Aglaiocercus

Aglaiocercus is another genus of Hummingbirds containing just three species and are collectively known as the Sylphs.

The Long-tailed Sylph Aglaiocercus kingie, is a hummingbird found in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, where it occurs in moist tropical and sub-tropical mountainous forests. It is the most widespread member of the genus. This is the only species that is found on the high east slopes of the Andes, here it overlaps with the Violet tailed Sylpth but the latter occurs at lower levels.

The outermost tail feathers of this species from which it takes its common name, are very long but they are not noticeably longer than those of other species of Sylph. The name Sylpth seems to derive from words that mean graceful woman or girl' or 'An imaginary spirit of the air'. The upper surface of the retrices { The long flight feathers that control direction}, of the male are a glittering blue green. The crown of the male is a metallic green as is the throat. However, the tail of the female is much shorter, the throat is white speckled with green. The under parts are a tawny buff colour.

The species forages at all elevations in the forest and at the forest edge. The nest of this species is a suspended ball or clump of moss with a side entrance and generally has a trail of moss dangling below. there are no current conservation concerns.

Violet-tailed sylph

Taken in Ecuador
Taken in Ecuador | Source


Taken in Ecuador
Taken in Ecuador | Source

The Violet tailed Sylph

Aglaiocercus coelestis, is the Violet-tailed Sylph, is a species found in Colombia and Ecuador, where it forages at elevations of three to two thousand one hundred metres. { Nine eighty to six thousand eight hundred feet } above sea level. On the western side of the Andes they are typically found at above three thousand feet.

The males average about seven inches long, while the average just under four inches long. They are generally solitary feeding at small clumps of flowers. It was once considered to be a sub-species of the previous species, however, its morphology, range and distribution gave enough reason to be classed as a species in its own right.. It is common in mossy areas in cloud forests at around one thousand metres utilizing also forest borders and partly open areas with shrubs and trees.

The males have long tail feathers are of a purple colour with blue tips which distinguish it from the previous species . This species tends to forage near the ground, regularly visiting the flowers on vines, trees and shrubs, which are spread wide apart. They are known to take insects from plants or by means of aerial hawking. it was once thought that they bred throughout the year, but studies have shown they build nests to roost in outside the breeding season. { October to February }

Venezuela Sylph

Aglaiocerus berlepschi, is a species endemic to a small region of north eastern Venezuelan coastal region, and is another species once considered to be a sub-species of the Long-tailed sylph. The male is largely green with a long violet -blue coloured blue tail and blue throat, while the females a largely green above and white below with green markings and like other species of Sylph they lack the long tail of the male.

They are encountered in shrub and forest habitats in mountain regions. They have been studied much less than other Sylphs, however, the breeding and behaviour are thought to be the same as other species. It is threatened by habitat degradation and is classed as being endangered by the IUCN. { International Union for Conservation of Nature }.

Aglaiocercus. juvenile



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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb, I agree these are gorgeous little birds. The way the nest is constructed so that they expand is a marvel of nature. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These are all such gorgeous hummingbirds. I once saw a nest with two little ones in it. It was elastic, in order to allow their growth, containing spider silk. The little ones were so beautiful and so tiny, of course.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hello Devika,

      Glad you enjoyed this one I know you enjoy our feathered friends. Best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Beautiful birds indeed! Humming birds are interesting and have a unique nature. Birds are incredible to have and to look at.


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