The Veraguan mango hummingbird (Anthracothorax veraguensis) is a small, vibrantly colored hummingbird found in the tropical forests of Central America. Measuring just 3-4 inches in length, it is one of the smaller hummingbird species, but makes up for its petite size with its flashy, iridescent plumage. The male has a brilliant emerald green head and throat, a golden-orange underside, and a metallic purple crown and back. The female lacks the vibrant coloring of the male and is more grayish-green overall.
The Veraguan mango’s range extends along the Caribbean coast of Central America, from eastern Guatemala south through Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica to western Panama. It occupies humid lowland rainforests, forest edges, second growth woodland, plantations and gardens. This species is a lowland tropical bird, normally found from sea level to around 2500 ft in elevation.
The Veraguan mango feeds mainly on nectar from flowers using its long, slender bill. Favorite nectar sources include Heliconia, Inga, Erythrina, Musa and Palicourea flowers, as well as many cultivated ornamentals like hibiscus and impatiens. It also takes small insects and spiders to meet its nutritional needs. The hummingbird uses its darting, acrobatic flight to visit blooms and catch tiny prey.
Reproduction in the Veraguan mango occurs from November to May. The female builds a tiny cup nest out of plant down and spider webs, attached to a low branch or tree fern. She lays two pea-sized white eggs and incubates them alone for 15-19 days. The chicks hatch with their eyes sealed shut and almost no feathers. They are fed regurgitated nectar and insects by the female and fledge after about 22-26 days in the nest.
Like many hummingbird species, the Veraguan mango is highly territorial. Males establish feeding territories rich in nectar flowers which they aggressively defend from intruders. Their metallic chattering call and flashy displays are used to scare off rivals. Males also use their colorful plumage in courtship displays to attract potential mates. The species may breed solitarily, in pairs, or in small loose colonies depending on habitat and food availability.
Across its range, the Veraguan mango remains a fairly common species. Its ability to utilize both pristine and disturbed habitats has allowed it to adapt well to habitat modification by humans. Agricultural development, logging and urbanization have reduced its old growth rainforest habitat across much of its range, but ornamental plantings and gardens provide new nectar sources. The Veraguan mango’s preference for low elevations makes it vulnerable, however, to the impacts of global climate change. Rising temperatures may force the species to higher, cooler elevations.
The brilliance of the male Veraguan mango makes it a favorite among birders and nature enthusiasts within its range. Ecotourism is an important incentive for Central American countries to protect critical rainforest habitat for this and other hummingbird species. Conservatively attired females often go unnoticed, but they are equally important in maintaining healthy populations of this tropical pollinator. Protecting migratory corridors and nesting habitat will be key to ensuring the future survival of the Veraguan mango hummingbird.
Though small, the Veraguan mango hummingbird has an oversized ecological role. As a nectar feeder and pollinator, it plays a vital part in maintaining the diversity of flowering plants in its Central American habitat. Its beauty continues to inspire appreciation and conservation of threatened tropical ecosystems in the region. This diminutive, sparkling creature is truly a jewel of Central America’s natural heritage.