The Magnificent Hummingbird is a large hummingbird that is aptly named for its eye-catching plumage. The species is one of numerous hummingbird species that are endemic to southeast Arizona among the U.S. states. It was formerly called Rivoli’s Hummingbird to honor the Duke of Rivoli. The name was changed to its current name in the mid-1980s.
The Magnificent Hummingbird grows to a length of 4.3-5.5 inches and weighs up to 6-10 grams. The males are slightly larger compared to females. With this size, the Magnificent Hummingbird is considered as one of the two largest species of hummingbirds that occur in the United States, the other being the Blue-throated Hummingbird. The species may have rivals in size in the extreme southern ends of its breeding range.
Both male and female Magnificent Hummingbirds appear dull if their plumages are not hit directly by sunlight. Also, both sexes have a long and straight to slightly curved black bill.
The adult male has a green-bronze back, with the bronze color becoming more intense as it approached the bird’s black tipped tail. Its crown is iridescent purple and its throat patch is bright blue-green. Aside from the white spot behind its eye, the rest of the head area has a black color. The chest area is green-bronze, while the belly has a greyish color.
The female Magnificent, on the other hand, has a bronze-green back and a dull grey coloring below. It also has a white strip behind its eye. It lacks the iridescent throat patch and crown of the male. The female closely resembles the female Blue-throated Hummingbird.
The juvenile males have a plumage that showcases both the characteristics’ of the adult male and female’s plumages. The juvenile females closely resemble the adult female, but with grey-buff fringes on feathers of upper parts, making it darker and browner.
The Magnificent Hummingbirds eat nectar that is taken from a variety of flowers, as well as some small insects.
They usually go up to the canopy to perch on flowers on epiphytes and vines. The females would stray on the flowers of Centropogon, and both sexes visit flowers such as Fuchsia and Cestrum.
Aside from flowers, they also eat arthropods that are mostly captured in flight.
Distribution and Habitat
The preferred habitat locations of Magnificent Hummingbirds are humid montane forests, pastures, open woodland, pine-oak association and scrubby areas. They live in the edges of clearings of montane oak forests at high altitudes – about 6560 feet.
They breed in mountains from the southwestern United States to western Panama. Some of them are found as far west as California and as far east as Alabama and Florida. In the south, their range spans through most of Mexico to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and northeastern Nicaragua.
While the majority of their populations are native, the species move south from the breeding range’s northern portions during the non-breeding season.
Behavior and Ecology
The only means of movement for Magnificent Hummingbirds is flying. They use hovering flights to forage nectar from flowers, while they use the forward flight for transportation as well as encountering threats. A combination of these two flights is used in capturing arthropods. They use their feet for scratching, and bill for grooming their feathers. Consequently, they clean their bills by rubbing on branches.
Similar to other hummingbirds, Magnificent Hummingbirds are usually solitary. There is no pair bond between pairs and they do not migrate in flocks. However, they are known to be very friendly to humans. Indeed, they often remain close to humans within their feeding habitat.
They produce a unique call that is a guttural “drrrk” – a loud or high-pitched “scarp tchik or chip”. This song or vocalization is repeated insistently and rapidly. When their territories are in danger, they produce this sound repeatedly.
The male Magnificent Hummingbirds are often seen perching conspicuously. They show a territorial behavior and are very aggressive in defending their territories. During the breeding season, males defend territories that are rich in giant thistle.
The female solely constructs the nest for incubating the eggs and raising her young. The nest is a small cup that is built out of soft materials and is covered with lichens and other similar materials. The nest is usually put at about 5 meters above the ground for safety.
She lays two white eggs, which she will incubate for about 15-19 days. The baby hummingbirds hatch altricial and are fed by the female. After 20-26 days from hatching, the young Magnificent Hummingbirds will already leave the nest.
Currently, there is no immediate conservation concern for Magnificent Hummingbirds. The species’ very large range and increasing population trend show that it is not approaching the thresholds for ‘Vulnerable’. Indeed, the Magnificent Hummingbird is classified under the ‘Least Concern’ category of the IUCN Red List.
While habitat loss may be a dilemma in Mexico and Central America, significant effects of this threat have not been recorded.