The Steely-vented Hummingbird (Amazilia saucerrottei) is a small hummingbird found in tropical regions of Central America. With its metallic green upperparts, white underparts, and reddish bill, it is a strikingly beautiful bird.
The Steely-vented Hummingbird measures around 3.5 inches (9 cm) in length and weighs just 2-3 grams. As its name suggests, its back and crown are a vibrant metallic green. Its throat and chest are white, transitioning to greyish underparts. Its slender bill is reddish with a black tip. The male has a purple-blue patch (gorget) on its throat which appears black in poor light conditions. Females lack the gorget and are generally less vibrantly colored on the upperparts.
Geographic Range and Habitat
The Steely-vented Hummingbird is found from southern Mexico through Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Its natural habitats are tropical moist lowland forests, plantations, gardens and scrublands. It occupies both lowland and foothill areas up to around 5000 feet in elevation.
Like all hummingbirds, the Steely-vented Hummingbird feeds on nectar from flowering plants. It uses its specialized long bill and tongue to drink nectar while hovering in front of flowers. It also consumes small insects which provides the protein necessary to sustain its high metabolism. Plants favored for nectar include Heliconia, Inga, banana relatives, and many others with tubular or cup-shaped red, orange or yellow flowers. The hummingbird feeds by licking nectar with its bifurcated (split) tongue up to 13 times per second.
Behavior and Life Cycle
The Steely-vented Hummingbird is solitary and territorial. Males defend flower-rich feeding territories from other males, and allow females to feed within their territories. Courtship displays by males include flying in u-shaped or figure-8 patterns, chasing females, and rapid side-to-side motions of their heads. Like all hummingbirds, the Steely-vented Hummingbird can fly straight up, down, backwards and upside-down. It builds a tiny cup-shaped nest out of plant fibers bonded with spiderwebs. The female lays two tiny white eggs and incubates them for 15-19 days. The chicks hatch with eyes closed and almost no feathers. They are fed regurgitated insects and nectar by the female and fledge after about 20-26 days in the nest.
The Steely-vented Hummingbird has a very large range and is described as common in at least parts of its range. The population is suspected to be stable and the species is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, habitat loss is an ongoing threat.
– The Steely-vented Hummingbird gets its name from its steely-green back plumage and the faint whistling sound its wings make in flight.
– Like other hummingbirds, it can hover in place by rapidly flapping its wings up to 70 times per second. This allows it to drink nectar while hovering precisely in position.
– To conserve energy at night, the hummingbird enters a hibernation-like state called torpor where its metabolic rate and body temperature are drastically reduced.
– Relative to its weight, its egg is the smallest known bird egg. Incubation is aided by the female’s incubation patch – an area of naked skin on her belly that transfers heat to the eggs.
– To remember the locations of productive feeding areas, the hummingbird is thought to have an excellent spatial memory.
– Males perform aerial displays during courtship dives where they fly up approximately 130 feet (40 m) then dive steeply past the female. Sound is produced by their tail feathers and diving speed may exceed 60 miles per hour (100 kph).
In summary, the Steely-vented Hummingbird is a striking tropical hummingbird species found in Central America. Despite habitat loss, it remains relatively common and is mesmerizing to observe feeding on nectar and defending its feeding territories. This hummingbird’s unique adaptations, such as hover feeding, spatial memory, courtship displays, and torpor, make it a fascinating subject of research for scientists studying animal behavior and physiology.