By Jennifer Nixon, Denver Zoo Bird Keeper
Introducing a very tiny feathered friend, Victor. He is a violaceous euphonia (Euphonia violacea). Try saying that three times fast. Vio-lā-ceous U-phone-ia. I totally made that phonetic spelling up, hopefully it helps.
Victor is a tiny bird, weighing in at 15 grams (that is the same as 3 nickels). He also has a big personality and beautiful coloration. He is a father and has had six chicks. Two of his sons live in the Tropical Forest of Bird World. Victor is a big fan of fruit. His favorite is papaya but he even enjoys hardboiled egg when he is rearing chicks (extra protein). He helps make the nest and then defends his nest and territory while his olive green female discretely incubates the eggs. She is surprisingly the more dominant of the couple and sometimes chases him around the exhibit. He does not seem to be bothered by it since he continues eating while she is chasing him.
Violaceous Euphonias are passerines or songbirds once thought to be related to the Tanager Family. They now have been determined, genetically, to be closely related to true finches. On average, males like Victor are about 4.45 inches long and weigh approximately 14 grams with a yellow underbelly and forehead with a dark blue or black back and beak. Females and juveniles are a dull olive color with a pale yellow-green underbelly and an olive colored beak. Violaceous euphonias are found in Brazil, also north central and south central South America. They predominantly reside along rainforest edges, parks and, also, in agricultural clearings as well as second growth forests. These Euphonias are non-migratory, but have an expansive territory or area of occupancy of more than 3 million square miles. Since they are fairly common they are of Least Concern according to the IUCN red list.
They are known to move rapidly when examining and selecting fruit. It often looks like the bird is stabbing the fruit when they first pluck the fruit off the branch. Violaceous euphonias are familial eaters meaning that they often eat in a family group setting and mainly consume small fruit with occasional insects. They tend to move to places where mistletoe berries are the most abundant. Their digestive system is specially equipped to handle toxins in mistletoe seeds and they have adapted to being great propagators for mistletoe and members of the Soapberry family like maple and lychee.
A violaceous euphonia nest is usually constructed from dead leaves, roots, tree stumps and mosses with a side entrance. Victor and his female chose to use a man-made nest that his keepers gave him. The female is solely responsible for incubating four, red splotched white eggs per clutch. Incubation is roughly 14 days. Both the male and female are responsible for feeding the altricial (born helpless without feathers) chicks and raising them after they have hatched. Fledging occurs approximately 24 days after hatching. Since they are so fast growing Victor could be a father again in no time.
Come visit Victor in Bird World sponsored by Frontier Airlines. He is halfway down the exit hallway. Make sure you look in the nest for his very discrete mate, possibly incubating eggs.