Purple-Backed Sunbeam

To the misfortune of many bird lovers, there are many species that have become extinct. However, there are some that can still be saved, despite the great risk they are taking because of man’s hand. One of these is Purple-Backed Sunbeam hummingbird.

Why do they call it that?

The truth is that Purple-Backed Sunbeam hummingbird is better known as a white-winged hummingbird or purple-backed sunbeam. Its scientific name is aglaeactis aliciae, and it belongs to the family of apodiformes, within the trochilidae.


It is an exclusive bird of Peru, living in the tropical and subtropical forests of the country, in areas of low brush and plantations, up to altitudes of 3,500 m above sea level. It is currently critically endangered.

And what does it look like?

It is one of the most beautiful hummingbird specimens currently existing in Peru. It is only 11 cm long and weighs about 7 grams. There is no visible sexual dimorphism to distinguish the male from the female, although the male appears to be a little smaller.

It is characterized because most of its body is covered by black feathers. However, in the area of his face and under his beak he appears to be wearing a white mask. In addition, the throat area has a pronounced white area and a row of white, button-like spots on the chest. When it reaches the base of the tail it also has white feathers, as well as on the edges of its wings.

The reason for receiving this particular name is because in the back area it has beautiful metallic violet feathers, mixed with yellow and a little orange, which make it a very distinguished bird and easy to recognize at sight. The young specimens obtain these coloured feathers on the back when they make their first molt.

In danger of extinction?

It is currently one of the birds at risk of extinction. In 2004 it was at risk, but in 2008 it was ‘at risk’. The main cause is the threat of the felling of alder trees, the planting of eucalyptus trees, grazing, the planting of bread products…. because of this, they have lost much of their food area, which has destroyed much of the population of these hummingbirds.

It is a rather distrustful specimen that does not like anyone approaching its food area. If you see any other hummingbird species that may cause you to lose your food area, they will attack you without hesitation so that you can keep the food that is so hard for you to keep. Because of this, many hummingbirds lose their lives during these clashes, especially young, inexperienced specimens.

aglaeactis aliciae

Their main food is nectar, but as they become increasingly scarce, they are forced to feed on their second food source: insects. However, hummingbirds feed on small insects, from which they extract protein, but it is not a sustainable food source. It is estimated that in 20-25 years, unless the situation of the species improves, it will eventually disappear from Peru.

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