Bahama Woodstar Hummingbird Species

The Bahama Woodstar Hummingbird (Calliphlox evelynae)

The Bahama woodstar is a small hummingbird species found only in the Bahama Islands. With an average body length of 6-8 cm and weight of 2-3 grams, it is one of the smallest hummingbird species in the world. This delicate bird has metallic green upperparts and white underparts, with the male having an iridescent reddish-pink throat. The long, thin bill is perfectly adapted for extracting nectar from flowers.

Range and Habitat

The Bahama woodstar is endemic to the Bahama Islands in the Caribbean. Its range is restricted to the islands of Abaco, Andros, Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Great Exuma, Inagua, Long Island, Mayaguana, New Providence, and Ragged Island.

This hummingbird species is found in a variety of habitats across its range, including coastal scrub, pine woodlands, mangroves, and residential areas. It has adapted well to human disturbance and can often be spotted visiting gardens and patios where nectar-rich flowers are found.

Diet and Feeding

Like all hummingbirds, the Bahama woodstar feeds on flower nectar and small insects. Its long, slender bill and extended tube-like tongue are specialized adaptations for obtaining nectar from flowers. Preferred nectar sources are flowers with long, tubular corollas such as hibiscus, orchids, and various herbs. The bird perches beside the flower and uses its bill to reach deep inside for the nectar.

In addition to nectar, the Bahama woodstar eats small insects and spiders which provide protein and nutrients. Aerial insects are caught during flight, while others are gleaned from leaves and bark. Common prey includes mosquitoes, gnats, aphids, beetles, ants, and spiders.

Unique Adaptations

The tiny Bahama woodstar exhibits some remarkable anatomical and physiological adaptations that allow it to survive on such a sugar-rich liquid diet. A proportionately large heart pumps oxygenated blood rapidly through its system to fuel energy-intensive hovering at flowers. Kidneys function efficiently to eliminate excess water consumed with nectar.

To conserve energy, the Bahama woodstar can lower its body temperature and enter a hibernation-like state called torpor at night. Their rapid metabolism requires them to feed frequently throughout the day, visiting hundreds of flowers daily.

Reproduction and Nesting

The breeding season for Bahama woodstars coincides with the blooming of their preferred nectar flowers, typically from March to June. As part of the courtship ritual, males perform aerial displays, flying in successive arcs less than two meters from the ground. If a female is impressed, she will mate with the male.

Females do all the work of nest building, incubating eggs, and raising the chicks. The tiny cup-shaped nest is constructed using plant down, spider webs, and lichens. It is camouflaged and attached to a branch, usually of a Caribbean pine. The female lays two tiny white eggs and incubates them for 16 to 19 days.

Chicks hatch altricial, with closed eyes and incapable of any movement. They are fed regurgitated nectar and insects by the female and fledge at about 18-23 days old. The female continues to feed the fledglings for another 2 weeks as they learn to forage on their own.

Threats and Conservation

With its exceptionally small range limited to the Bahamas, the Bahama woodstar is considered Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List. Major threats include habitat loss from development, nest predation by introduced species, and destruction from hurricanes. Fortunately, its populations seem relatively stable currently.

Various conservation efforts are in place to protect critical habitat for the Bahama woodstar. The Bahamas National Trust works to establish protected wildlife reserves and bans the cutting of Caribbean pine, an important nesting tree. Backyard bird programs encourage residents to landscape properties with native nectar plants. In the future, threatened nesting sites may need active protection and management to ensure the woodstar’s survival.

While small and often overlooked, the Bahama woodstar fills an important ecological role as a pollinator for plants across its island habitats. Protecting this unique and beautiful little bird is crucial for maintaining functioning island ecosystems and rich biodiversity in the Bahamas. With proper management, this smallest of hummingbirds will continue to brighten Bahamian landscapes with its glittering gems for years to come.