Despite being small compared to other birds, the Blue-throated Hummingbird, also which is also called the Blue-throated Mountain Gem, is large enough for its hummingbird family. It has a characteristic dull plumage, with the exception of the blue throat of the adult male. The male’s blue throat patch explains why it is called as such.
With a weight range of 6-10 grams and a length between 4.3-4.7 inches, the Blue-throated Hummingbird is considered as the largest hummingbird in northern regions of Mexico. It is also three times heavier compared to the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Because of its size, it beats its wings about half as fast as the smaller hummingbird species. However, the Blue-throated can still beat them 23 times a second while hovering. The bird’s wingspan runs at about 3.1 inches for males and 2.3 inches for females.
The Blue-throated Hummingbird is known for having a dull plumage consist of green upper body and greyish lower body. There are white stripes that can be seen in the bird’s face, specifically one behind the eye and another from the corner of its bill that borders a blackish cheek patch. These two white facial stripes distinguish the Blue-throated from the rest of hummingbird species.
The hummingbird’s tail feathers have an iridescent blue-back color, which have some broad white tips on the two or three outermost pairs.
The adult male Blue-throated hummingbird is distinguished for having a remarkable blue throat patch. The female does not have this blue patch, and instead shows a plain gray throat. Moreover, the female Blue-throated share a lot of similarities with the Magnificent Hummingbird, although it has much larger white margins on her tail feathers.
The juvenile is similar in physical appearance to the adult female, except that it has buff edging on majority of its feathers, especially on the crown and rump.
The diet of Blue-throated Hummingbird is similar to the other hummingbirds. It also eats nectars from flowers and catches insects in flights. Sometimes, they also pluck insects from foliage or the ground. During winter, Blue-throated Hummingbirds feed on sap from wells that are drilled by sapsuckers to serve as a substitute for nectar.
Distribution and Habitat
The Blue-throated Hummingbird thrives in open woodland, second growth and shrubby areas, mainly in pine-oak and deciduous woodland. Sometimes, they are seen nesting under bridges, in caves, or on buildings. During migration seasons, they also visit flowers in open spaces and gardens.
The Blue-throated Hummingbird is a permanent resident of the mountain woodlands of Mexico. However, during summer, the bird can be rarely seen in the moist, wooded canyons in the Madrean sky islands of southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and western Texas in the United States and northeastern Sonora, Mexico. There are some of them that traditionally spend the winter season in southeastern Arizona.
While most of them breed at highly elevated areas such as mountains, they move down during the months of winter.
Behavior and Ecology
While most North American Hummingbirds exhibit a dive display, the Blue-throated Hummingbird does not show any. Instead, the male utilizes varying vocalizations for territory defense as well as courtship. He sings two types of songs – a simple “peep song”, which sounds like a squeaky wheel, and a quiet but complex “whisper song”.
The female Blue-throated Hummingbird, on the other hand, makes a unique call that serves as an indicator that she is prepared for mating. She takes consecutive short flights to attract the male before copulation and sings to attract the attention of the males.
The male does not take any responsibility in raising the young, building the nest, or raising the young. Indeed, the male’s only participation in the reproductive process is the actual mating.
The female chooses a protected location where she can build the nest, usually in areas over the water, such as flowing streams. She makes the nest from soft plant fibers that are held together with the use of spider silk strands from spider webs. The exterior part of the nest is camouflaged with green mosses to avoid attracting attention from predators.
The female Blue-throated lays 2 white eggs. The eggs hatch in 17 to 19 days. About 6-7 days from hatching, the young birds already leave the nest. Under ideal conditions, Blue-throated Hummingbirds can produce up to 3 broods. If this happens, the female bird will just build a new nest atop the previous nest, allowing the creation of nest towers in these nesting areas.
While the average lifespan of the Blue-throated still remains unknown, the longest living male has a lifespan of 12 years.
The Blue-throated Hummingbird is marked with a ‘Least Concern’ status under the IUCN Classification System. However, the species is seen to be vulnerable to habitat loss in the United States part of its range, which is caused by the scarcity and specificity of the requirements of its habitat. This threat also extends to Mexico, where logging of forest habitat is also rampant.