Antillean Crested Hummingbird Species

The Antillean Crested Hummingbird (Orthorhyncus cristatus) is a small hummingbird found exclusively in the West Indies. With an average body length of 7-8 cm (2.8-3.1 in) and weight of 2-3 g (0.07-0.11 oz), it is one of the smallest hummingbird species in the world. This diminutive bird can be identified by its unique crest feathers and short bill.

Range and Habitat
The Antillean crested hummingbird is endemic to the Caribbean islands of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Its natural habitats are tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, plantations, and gardens. This species is a permanent resident, found in both lowland and highland forest areas. It prefers edges and openings where nectar-bearing flowers are abundant.

Description
The most distinctive feature of the Antillean crested hummingbird is the short crest on the crown of its head. This is made up of 6-10 feathers measuring around 1 cm in length. The crest is more prominent in the male. Other key features include:

– Iridescent gorget (throat feathers) – metallic red in males, speckled grey-white in females

– Green upperparts and whitish underparts

– Short black bill with a slight downward curve

– Long tapered tail

– White tips on outer tail feathers

Males and females look similar apart from the throat patch. Juveniles resemble adult females but with buffer edges to the tail feathers.

Diet and Feeding
Like all hummingbirds, the Antillean crested hummingbird feeds on nectar from flowers using its long extendable tongue. It favors flowers with a tubular shape, accessing the nectar while hovering in front of them. Heliconias and other tropical flowers rich in nectar are important food sources. The bird supplements its diet with small insects including spiders, captured in flight or picked off vegetation.

Unique Adaptations
The Antillean crested hummingbird has several special adaptations that allow it to hover and feed while in flight:

– Wing-beat of around 50 times per second, rotating the wings in a figure-of-eight movement

– Lightweight skeleton and compact muscle structure

– Excellent eyesight to gauge depth and distance

– Billing licking up to 13 times per second to retrieve nectar

– Tongue tube helps to suck up nectar

– High metabolism and rapid breathing

Behaviors
This hummingbird is known for its aggressive behavior, actively defending nectar resources and chasing away intruders including much larger birds. Males perform aerial courtship displays, flying in u-shaped patterns to impress females.

Vocalizations are limited to thin, high-pitched squeaking or twittering sounds. The Antillean crested hummingbird does not sing complex melodious songs like some other hummingbird species.

Breeding
The breeding season runs from March to June. Males court females with aerial displays and by fluffing up their colorful throat feathers. Once paired, the female builds a tiny cup-shaped nest out of plant down, spider webs, and lichen on a low tree branch.

She lays just two pea-sized white eggs and incubates them alone for 15-18 days. The chicks are fed regurgitated nectar and insects by the female. They leave the nest at 22-26 days old. Males play no role in raising the young.

Conservation Status
The Antillean crested hummingbird has a wide distribution and large population, estimated at up to 1 million individuals. Its population appears to be stable so the species is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss is the main threat.

Fun Facts
– Weighs less than a nickel! One of the tiniest birds in the world.

– Feather crests add about 15% to the bird’s surface area, helping dissipate heat.

– Must eat up to half its body weight in nectar daily to power its rapid metabolism.

– Primary pollinator of many tropical flowers, making it an important part of the ecosystem.

– Nests are no bigger than a walnut shell.

– Young hummingbirds can fly at just 12-28 days old, the shortest nesting period of any bird species.

The tiny Antillean crested hummingbird may be petite but it plays a vital role in pollination in the tropical forests of the Caribbean. Its unique appearance and behaviors make it a fascinating species to observe in the wild. Careful habitat conservation is crucial to ensure the future survival of this range-restricted island endemic.