Blue-chinned Sapphire Hummingbird Species

The Blue-chinned Sapphire Hummingbird (Chlorestes notatus) is a small hummingbird found in Colombia and far western Venezuela. With its vibrant blue chin and throat feathers and shining emerald green back, this species is considered one of the most beautiful hummingbirds in the world.

Physical Description
The blue-chinned sapphire is a tiny bird, measuring just 3.5 inches in length and weighing around 0.1 ounces. As its name suggests, the most distinctive feature of this hummingbird is its bright metallic blue chin and throat. The crown and back of the head are a shining emerald green. The rest of the body is covered in gray-brown feathers, with green on the lower back and rump. The tail is forked and steel blue. The bill is thin, straight and black. Females are similar to males but less vibrantly colored, with more gray-brown overall and little to no blue on the chin and throat.

Distribution and Habitat
The blue-chinned sapphire is found exclusively in Colombia and westernmost Venezuela. Its range extends across the three cordilleras of the Colombian Andes. It occupies both humid and dry forest at elevations between 1,600 feet and 9,000 feet. Typical habitat includes forest edges, second growth, semi-open areas, parks and gardens.

Like all hummingbirds, the blue-chinned sapphire feeds on nectar from flowers. It uses its specialized long, extendable tongue to lap up nectar while hovering in front of blooms. Favorite flowers include those from the genera Fuchsia, Salvia, Psittacanthus, Drymonia and Besleria. The blue-chinned sapphire will also feed on small insects such as flies, beetles and spiders to obtain protein and nutrients.

Behavior and Life Cycle
The blue-chinned sapphire is solitary and territorial. Males establish feeding territories, using aerial displays to chase intruding males away. Their display consists of rapid hovering and diving accompanied by clicking noises with the wings. Females and juveniles do not defend territories. The breeding season ranges from March to June. Males court females with elaborate aerial displays, flying in U-shaped or figure-eight patterns above the female. Once paired, the female builds a small cup nest out of plant fibers, spider webs and lichens, attached to a vertical branch, fern or tree trunk. She lays two tiny white eggs. Incubation lasts 15-19 days. The chicks hatch altricial (helpless) but develop quickly. They fledge at around 20-23 days old.

The voice of the blue-chinned sapphire is a thin, high-pitched tseep or tsit sounded repeatedly in flight. Males also produce buzzing and clicking sounds with their wings and tail during aerial displays.

Status and Threats
The blue-chinned sapphire is evaluated as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. Habitat destruction from agriculture, urbanization and logging are the major threats facing this species. The popularity of its brightly colored feathers for decorations also contributes to its vulnerable status. Fortunately, it does adapt well to human-altered environments like gardens and parks. Conservation efforts focus on habitat preservation and banning capture or trade of the birds. Creating protected reserves in key areas of its range offers hope for the long-term survival of the dazzling blue-chinned sapphire.

The blue-chinned sapphire hummingbird is a South American jewel, its iridescent colors rivaling any gemstone. As development encroaches on the forests this species inhabits, conservation measures are crucial for protecting it. Maintaining intact nature preserves as well as green spaces and gardens in developed areas will give this spectacle of nature the habitat it needs to continue gracing its Andean home with its vibrant beauty.