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A photo of a Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus), male
Red-legged Honeycreeper, Male

Red-legged Honeycreeper

Cyanerpes cyaneus

The Red-legged Honeycreeper, Cyanerpes cyaneus, is a diminutive and vibrant member of the tanager family, Thraupidae. Males are resplendent with violet-blue plumage, a turquoise crown, and a striking set of bright red legs. Their wings and back are a contrasting black, and during flight, one can glimpse the lemon yellow of their underwings. Post-breeding, males adopt an eclipse plumage that is predominantly greenish with black wings. Females and immature birds are primarily green with paler underparts that are subtly streaked. The female's legs are red-brown, while the juveniles have brown legs. This species measures an average of 12.2 cm in length and weighs around 14 grams, with a medium-long, slightly decurved black bill.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Red-legged Honeycreeper, look for the male's vibrant blue and black plumage and red legs, which are particularly striking. Females and young birds can be identified by their greenish coloration and less vibrant leg color. The male's eclipse plumage can be recognized by its greenish tones and black wings.


The Red-legged Honeycreeper is typically found at the edges of forests, in open woodlands, and amongst cocoa and citrus plantations. It thrives in these semi-open habitats where it can forage and nest.


This species is widely distributed across the tropical New World, ranging from southern Mexico to Peru, Bolivia, and central Brazil. It is also present in Trinidad and Tobago and has been introduced to Cuba. There are rare sightings in southern Texas.


These birds are often observed in small groups. They exhibit a keen response to the calls of the ferruginous pygmy owl, which can be easily mimicked by birdwatchers.

Song & Calls

The Red-legged Honeycreeper's vocalizations consist of a high-pitched, thin 'tsip' call, which is distinctive to the species.


In Costa Rica, the breeding season typically spans from April to June. The female exclusively constructs the cup-shaped nest, which is secured with cobwebs to twigs in shrubs or trees. The clutch comprises two eggs, which are incubated by the female for about 12 to 13 days. Both parents feed the nestlings, which fledge after approximately 14 days.

Similar Species

The Red-legged Honeycreeper can be confused with the Purplish Honeycreeper, which is believed to be a hybrid between the Green Honeycreeper and either the Red-legged Honeycreeper or the Blue Dacnis.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Red-legged Honeycreeper includes insects, seeds, fruit, and nectar. They have been observed feeding on the fruit of Trophis racemosa and nectar from Dimorphandra species.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Red-legged Honeycreeper as Least Concern, indicating that the species does not currently face a significant risk of extinction.

Red-legged Honeycreeper Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Red-legged Honeycreepers on Birda


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