Rufous Sabrewing Hummingbird Species

The Rufous Sabrewing (Campylopterus rufus) is a medium-sized hummingbird found in Central and South America. With its metallic reddish-bronze plumage, the male Rufous Sabrewing is one of the most colorful hummingbirds in its range. The female is less brightly colored, with greenish upperparts and whitish underparts with rusty streaks on the throat. The Rufous Sabrewing inhabits forest edges and second growth from sea level to high mountain elevations. It has a straight black bill and a deeply forked tail. This species measures 7-9 cm (2.75-3.5 in) in length and weighs around 5-8 g (0.17-0.28 oz).

Range and Habitat

The Rufous Sabrewing has a wide distribution across Central America and northern and western South America. Its range extends from southeastern Mexico south through Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and western Brazil. It is found up to elevations of 3300 m (10800 ft) in the Andes Mountains.

This hummingbird inhabits tropical and subtropical forest edges, second growth, plantations, parks and gardens. It prefers areas with plenty of flowering plants and some shrubs or small trees for perching. It is often found along forest streams. The Rufous Sabrewing may wander seasonally to take advantage of flower blooms at different elevations.


The brilliant metallic reddish-coppery plumage makes the male Rufous Sabrewing very distinctive. It has a straight black bill, white spot behind the eye and whitish undertail coverts. The female Rufous Sabrewing is mostly green above with a rufous rump, dull whitish undersides with rusty streaks on the throat, and pale buffy markings on the outer tail feathers. Immature birds resemble females but have buffy edges to the feathers on the back.

The Violet Sabrewing is similar in Central America but has more extensive white markings on the tail. The Rufous-breasted Sabrewing of Colombia and Venezuela also resembles the Rufous Sabrewing but is slightly smaller with rufous on the undertail coverts.

Food and Feeding

Like other hummingbirds, the Rufous Sabrewing feeds mainly on nectar from flowers using its long extendable tongue. It obtains most of its nectar from understory herbs and epiphytes as well as from trees and shrubs such as banana, Heliconia, and ginger plants. The Rufous Sabrewing sometimes pierces flowers at the base to rob nectar rather than pollinating them. It also catches small insects and spiders to obtain protein, often hawking insects in flight.

Behavior and Breeding

The Rufous Sabrewing is usually found alone or in pairs, perching frequently between flights to flowers. Males are aggressive and maintain feeding territories, chasing away intruders. They perform courtship displays for females, flying in U-shaped patterns and dive displays.

The breeding season varies across the range, corresponding with peak flower blooming. The female Rufous Sabrewing builds a small cup nest out of plant fibers bound with spider webs on a branch, tree fern, or vine. She lays two tiny white eggs and incubates them for 15-19 days. The chicks hatch with their eyes closed and sparse white down. They are fed regurgitated food by the female and fledge at around 22-26 days old.

Conservation Status

The Rufous Sabrewing has an extremely large range estimated at 1,300,000 square kilometers (500,000 square miles). Its global population has not been quantified but the species is described as fairly common in suitable habitat. The population is suspected to be stable despite some habitat degradation. Due to its large range and stable numbers, the Rufous Sabrewing is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Human Interactions

The beautiful Rufous Sabrewing adapts well to human modified environments such as gardens and parks. It is easily attracted to nectar feeders, although aggressive males may chase other hummingbirds away. This species is sought after by birders for its vibrant plumage. Expanding sugarcane plantations have reduced its habitat in parts of its range. The Rufous Sabrewing occurs in many protected areas across Central and South America, helping assure the conservation of this striking hummingbird into the future.