The wine-throated hummingbird is a small, colorful hummingbird found in the cloud forests of Costa Rica, western Panama and Chiriquí in western Panama. With an average body length of 7-8 cm (2.8-3.1 in) and weight of 2-3 grams, it is one of the smallest hummingbird species in the world.
The male wine-throated hummingbird has a gleaming purple-red throat, green crown and dark tail. The underparts are grey-white and the upperparts metallic green. The elongated bill is straight and black. The female is similar but has green spots on the throat and grey on the crown and underparts. The immature wine-throats resemble the adult female.
Habitat and Distribution
The wine-throated hummingbird inhabits cloud forests at elevations between 1500-3300 m. Its range is limited to highland areas in Costa Rica and western Panama. It can be found in forest edges, semi-open areas, gardens and along roadsides. This species occurs in tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests.
Like all hummingbirds, the wine-throated hummingbird feeds on nectar from flowers using its long extensible tongue. It favors flowers of the genera Bomarea, Drymonia, Centropogon, Columnea and epiphytic Ericaceae and bromeliads. It also takes small insects and spiders as an essential source of protein, vitamins and minerals. It feeds while hovering in front of the flower and may defend flower clumps and feeding territories from intruders.
Behavior and Breeding
The wine-throated hummingbird is solitary and territorial. Males defend flower territories to court females and feed. Courtship displays include flying in U-shaped or figure-eight patterns in front of the female. Vocalizations include whistles and buzzes.
The breeding season peaks from March to May. The tiny cup-shaped nest is constructed using plant down, lichen and moss bound with spider webs. It is attached to a vertical branch, often overhanging a stream. The female incubates the two white eggs for 15-19 days. The chicks fledge after 20-26 days.
Status and Conservation
The wine-throated hummingbird has a small global range and population estimated at 2500-9999 mature individuals. Habitat loss and degradation are the main threats this species faces. Fortunately, its cloud forest habitat is somewhat remote and occurs within protected areas such as Tapantí National Park. The wine-throated hummingbird is therefore evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. Protecting remaining old growth forest is crucial for the survival of this endemic species with specialized habitat needs.
– The wine-throated hummingbird is one of the smallest hummingbirds, averaging just 7 cm long and 2-3 grams in weight. For perspective, a U.S nickel coin weighs 5 grams!
– Male wine-throats have a distinctive purplish-red gorget that shines like liquid garnet. This gave rise to the common name referencing its “wine-colored” throat.
– Like all hummingbirds, the wings beat incredibly fast. Wine-throated hummingbirds can flap their wings up to 80 times per second! This allows them to hover in place while drinking nectar.
– Hummingbirds have the fastest metabolic rate of any warm-blooded animal. Their hearts can reach over 1200 beats per minute.
– To conserve energy, wine-throats lower their body temperature and enter torpor at night when flowers are unavailable. Their heartbeat and breathing slows down remarkably.
– The wine-throat’s long, specialized tongue can reach up to 8 cm to retrieve nectar from flowers. Their tongues have forked tips suited to nectar-feeding.
– Males perform elaborate courtship displays to impress females, including aerial maneuvers and dives up to 6 meters high. Mating occurs while perched together on a branch.
In summary, the exquisite wine-throated hummingbird is a tropical gem restricted to the mountain cloud forests of Central America. Their unique appearance and behaviors make them a fascinating species to observe in their mossy, epiphyte-laden habitat. Conservation of remaining old growth forest is crucial for protecting this threatened cloud forest specialist.