The Blue-headed Hummingbird (Cyanophaia bicolor) is a small hummingbird native to the tropical rainforests of Central America. With its shimmering blue crown and emerald green body, this species is considered one of the most beautiful hummingbirds in the world.
The Blue-headed Hummingbird averages 8-9 cm in length and weighs around 3-4 grams. As the name suggests, the most striking feature of this bird is its brilliant sapphire blue crown, which appears black in poor lighting conditions. The crown is more extensive in the male than in the female. The rest of the upperparts and wing coverts are an iridescent bottle-green color. The tail is mostly greenish-black, and the outer tail feathers have white tips. The underparts of the Blue-headed Hummingbird are white from the throat down towards the belly. The bill is thin, straight and black. The legs and feet are also black.
Males and females look similar, but females have slightly duller plumage overall and a smaller blue crown patch compared to males. Juveniles appear mostly green and lack the distinctive blue crown until their first molt.
Distribution and Habitat
The Blue-headed Hummingbird is found from southeastern Mexico through Central America to Panama. Its habitat consists primarily of tropical evergreen lowland and foothill forests as well as plantations and gardens. This species occurs at elevations up to 1500 m above sea level.
The species is a year-round resident throughout most of its range. Some northern populations may make local movements in response to food availability. Overall, these hummingbirds are not migratory.
Diet and Feeding
Like all hummingbirds, the Blue-headed Hummingbird has a specialized diet consisting of nectar, tree sap, and small insects and spiders. Its main food source is flower nectar, which it retrieves with its long extendable tongue. It favors flowers with the highest sugar concentrations. Some favorite nectar sources includeHeliconia, Inga, Erythrina, and epiphytic flowers.
The Blue-headed Hummingbird also gleans small insects and spiders from flowers, leaves, and branches by flying close to vegetation. It may also hawk flying insects in midair. Sap wells drilled by woodpeckers are another important food source. The hummingbird licks the sap with its extendable tongue.
The breeding season for Blue-headed Hummingbirds varies geographically but typically coincides with peak flower availability in its particular habitat. Most breeding activity seems to occur between February and June.
As with other hummingbirds, elaborate courtship displays precede mating. Males climb up to 100 feet in the air and then dive rapidly with an audible buzzing sound, stopping abruptly to hover in front of the female. Displays are repeated until the female is receptive.
The female Blue-headed Hummingbird builds a small cup-shaped nest out of plant down, spider webs, and lichens on a low horizontal branch or tree fork. She incubates the two tiny white eggs alone for 15-19 days. The chicks are fed regurgitated food by the female and fledge at 20-26 days old.
Status and Conservation
The Blue-headed Hummingbird has a wide distribution over much of Central America and is not currently considered threatened. Its populations appear stable, and it adapts readily to human-altered environments like gardens and plantations, boosting its numbers. However, some key threats to its native forest habitats are logging and conversion to agriculture. Eco-tourism and preservation of protected habitat can help ensure the species continues thriving across its range.
– The Blue-headed Hummingbird is known for its hyperactive behavior. It rarely sits still for more than a few seconds at a time.
– To conserve energy overnight, the Blue-headed Hummingbird enters a hibernation-like state called torpor where its metabolic rate and body temperature drop significantly.
– The species name “bicolor” refers to the male’s two-toned blue and green plumage. The common name alludes to its brilliant blue crown.
– The long bill of the Blue-headed Hummingbird is perfectly adapted to retrieve nectar from a variety of specialized tropical flowers.
– Like all hummingbirds, the Blue-headed Hummingbird can fly forwards, backwards, up, down, and even upside down!
– The Blue-headed Hummingbird has one of the largest ranges of any Central American hummingbird species.
In summary, the beautiful Blue-headed Hummingbird is a tropical jewel of Central America’s forests and gardens. Its unique adaptations for nectar-feeding and acrobatic flight make it a special member of hummingbird family. More research is still needed on the behavior and population trends of this charismatic species. With appropriate habitat conservation, the Blue-headed Hummingbird will hopefully continue lighting up its home range with flashes of blue and green for a long time to come.