The blue-throated sapphire (Lepidopyga coeruleogularis) is a species of hummingbird found in tropical regions of South America. With its glittering blue throat and belly, it is one of the most strikingly colored hummingbirds.
The blue-throated sapphire is a medium-sized hummingbird, measuring 7-8 centimeters in length and weighing 5-7 grams. The male has vibrant metallic blue feathers covering its chin, throat, chest and belly. This contrasts with the bright green crown and back. The tail is blackish with white tips to the outer feathers. The female is less vibrantly colored, with grayish underparts rather than blue. She can be distinguished from other female hummingbirds by her white-tipped tail.
Distribution and Habitat
The blue-throated sapphire is found in tropical regions of northern and central South America. Its range extends through Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and Brazil. It inhabits forest and woodland areas, including deciduous and gallery forests. It has a preference for forest edges and clearings. It can also be found in parks and gardens, provided there are sufficient flowers to feed on.
Like all hummingbirds, the blue-throated sapphire feeds on flower nectar and tiny insects. It favors flowers with a tubular shape, using its specialized long, slender beak to delve into the corollas. Some favorite food plants include species of Heliconia, Costus, banana, and palm. The bird uses its extensible tongue to lap up nectar. It also hawks small insects, catching them in mid-air. A combination of nectar and insects provides the high-energy diet these fast-metabolizing birds require.
The blue-throated sapphire, like most hummingbirds, is solitary and territorial. Males defend flower-rich feeding territories from other males through aggressive displays. They perform courtship flights to attract females. Once pairing has occurred, the female alone builds the tiny cup-shaped nest out of plant down and spider webs. She raises one or two chicks, feeding them with regurgitated insects. The chicks fledge in about 3 weeks.
Hummingbirds have many unique anatomical and physiological adaptations related to their nectar-feeding lifestyle. They have specialized tongues with forked tips that can lap up liquid. They have excellent color vision to detect flower colors. Their wings beat incredibly fast, allowing them to hover in place or fly backwards. High metabolisms and rapid breathing provide the energy for their aerobatic flight. Blood glucose levels plummet rapidly when they aren’t feeding regularly. To conserve energy at night, they go into a hibernation-like torpor.
Threats and Conservation
While still relatively common, blue-throated sapphire numbers are believed to be decreasing across its range. Threats include habitat loss from deforestation and conversion to agriculture. Exotic plant species disrupt native food sources. Pesticide use also impacts insect prey populations. Climate change may alter flower blooming cycles and nectar availability. However, the species occurs over a wide geographic area and can adapt to modified habitats. Protecting forest fragments and providing flowering gardens can help conservation.
– The sapphire name refers to the bright blue plumage of the male, resembling the gemstone.
– Like all hummingbirds, the blue-throated sapphire can hover in place by rapidly beating its wings up to 70 times per second.
– The species exhibits polygyny, where male mate with multiple females. Males provide no parental care.
– Blue-throated sapphires bathe by Flying through mist or drops of water. This keeps their feathers in good condition.
– To conserve energy overnight, they enter torpor, lowering their body temperature and metabolic rate.
In summary, the blue-throated sapphire is a tropical hummingbird species displaying beautiful blue plumage. They feed on flower nectar and insects, exhibiting specialized adaptations for hover-feeding. While still relatively widespread, habitat loss poses threats. Providing flower-rich habitat can help protect these unique and captivating birds. With their glittering jewel-like colors, they add sparkle and life to Neotropical forests and gardens.