The White-chinned Sapphire Hummingbird (Hylocharis cyanus) is a small, colorful hummingbird found in parts of South America. With its shiny blue crown, white chin, and vivid green body, it is one of the most striking hummingbirds in its range.
The white-chinned sapphire measures around 8-9 centimeters in length. The male has brilliant, shimmering blue feathers on the top of its head, nape, and throat, which can appear black in poor lighting. The breast is a glittering green while the belly is grey-white. As the name suggests, there is a distinctive white patch on the chin. The tail is forked and steel blue. Females lack the vibrant blue crown and throat feathers, instead having grey-brown plumage on the head and a white throat and belly. Both sexes have a straight black bill.
Range and Habitat
This species is found across tropical South America in parts of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and the Guianas. Its habitat is lowland tropical rainforests as well as woodland edges and clearings. It tends to occur at lower elevations up to 1000 meters above sea level.
Diet and Feeding
Like all hummingbirds, the white-chinned sapphire feeds on nectar from colorful tropical flowers such as shrubs, vines and epiphytes. It uses its specialized long, slender bill to drink the nectar while hovering in front of the flower. It also consumes small insects which provide additional protein. The birds have high metabolisms and must feed frequently throughout the day, visiting hundreds of flowers. Some favorite food plants include the hallsap, porterweed, jacobinia, and heliconias.
Behavior and Breeding
These hummingbirds are solitary and territorial. Males perform elaborate courtship displays, flying back and forth to attract the attention of females. Once paired, the female builds a tiny cup nest out of plant down, spider webs and lichen on a low tree branch. She lays two tiny white eggs. She alone cares for the chicks, feeding them with regurgitated food. The chicks fledge after about three weeks.
Status and Threats
While still fairly common across parts of its range, habitat loss in some areas has led to population declines. Colombia in particular has seen extensive deforestation of rainforest habitats. However, the species remains classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List since the overall population appears stable. More research is needed to better understand population trends.
Protecting remaining lowland tropical rainforests will be crucial in safeguarding the white-chinned sapphire. Strict enforcement against deforestation and responsible ecotourism practices can help prevent habitat loss. Bird-friendly farming methods allow forest fragments and vegetation to remain in agricultural areas. Providing artificial feeders with sugar water helps supplement food sources. Public education campaigns that highlight the beauty and value of hummingbirds also aid conservation efforts. With appropriate measures, the continued survival of these dazzling birds can be secured.
With its vibrant plumage, specialized feeding behaviors, and aerial agility, the white-chinned sapphire hummingbird is truly a marvel of evolution. While threatened in some parts of its range, dedicated conservation initiatives can ensure thriving populations across South America. Protecting tropical forests not only benefits this species, but a huge diversity of plants, animals, and native people that call the rainforest home. The fate of the white-chinned sapphire ultimately depends on humanity’s commitment to environmental stewardship.