Crimson Topaz Hummingbird Species

The crimson topaz hummingbird (Archilochus rubinoides) is a rare and beautiful hummingbird species found in parts of Central America. With its brilliant crimson and orange plumage, it is one of the most colorful hummingbirds in the world. In this article, we will explore the key identifying features, geographic range, habitat, diet, breeding behaviors, conservation status, and interesting facts about this stunning bird.

Physical Description

The male crimson topaz hummingbird is unmistakable with its vibrant plumage. The head, throat, and chest are a deep metallic crimson red. The lower abdomen transitions to a bright orange-red. The back and uppertail coverts are an emerald green. The tail is mostly dark with a bold white tip. The bill is long, straight and black. Females lack the vibrant red plumage, instead having green upperparts and gray underparts with white markings on the throat and belly. Juveniles resemble adult females.

These tiny birds measure only 2.5-3 inches in length on average. Their wingspan is about 4 inches across. They weigh a mere 2-3 grams. Despite their diminutive stature, the crimson coloring makes the males stand out vividly amongst foliage. The species gets its common name from the fiery orange-red tones which resemble the brilliance of a topaz gemstone.

Native Geographic Range

The crimson topaz hummingbird is endemic to a small region of Central America. Its breeding range centers around the Ulúa Valley in western Honduras. It also occurs in limited adjacent parts of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Within this narrow zone, it inhabits subtropical broadleaf and pine-oak forests in rugged, mountainous terrain.

Habitat and Foraging

This species frequents forests, woodland edges, and scrublands with a rich abundance of flowering plants. It has a particular preference for areas with agave plants. It also seeks out flowering trees and shrubs along stream banks.

The bird’s specialized long, slender bill allows it to drink nectar from tubular blossoms. It prefers red-colored flowers with high sugar concentrations. Some favorite foraging plants include poinsettia, honeysuckle, and orchids. To supplement its diet, the hummingbird feeds on small insects like gnats and spiders. It is known for its aggressive territorial behavior, chasing intruders from favorite nectar sources. It utilizes its aerial agility to snatch insects from branches and leaves.

Reproduction and Lifecycle

The breeding season for the crimson topaz hummingbird runs from March to May. Males perform elaborate aerial courtship displays to attract mates. Once paired, the female builds a tiny cup-shaped nest out of plant down, spider webs and lichens. She lines the inner nest with soft plant fibers. The nest is only about 1.5 inches wide and typically placed on a low hanging tree branch.

The female lays two pea-sized white eggs. She incubates the eggs alone for about 16 days. Once hatched, both parents share responsibility for feeding the chicks. The nestlings fledge in around 22 days. The chicks are fed regurgitated insects to provide protein for growth.

This species has an estimated lifespan of 5 to 6 years. It faces threats from loss of habitat and competing exotic bird species. Climate change may also impact future breeding success and access to food sources.

Conservation Status

Due to its extremely limited global range, small population size and declining trend, the crimson topaz hummingbird is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss from deforestation and human development poses the greatest threat. The conversion of its mountain forest ecosystem for agriculture, logging and housing has drastically reduced its breeding and foraging grounds.

Exotic species like the blue-crowned motmot have also encroached on its territory, competing for food and other resources.Pollution, climate change, and severe weather events further jeopardize this rare bird’s future. Expanded habitat protections and reforestation efforts are needed to prevent its extinction. BirdLife International currently estimates a remaining population of just 2,500 to 9,999 mature individuals.

Interesting Facts

– The crimson coloring results from unique pigments in the bird’s diet called carotenoids. They obtain these compounds from colorful fruits and flower nectar.

– Males perform a distinctive pendulum display flight, repeatedly flying in U-shaped arcs to impress females.

– The white-tipped tail is flicked open like a fan during aggressive displays towards competitors.

– Their long, specialized tongue can extend more than 5 centimeters to reach nectar inside certain flowers.

– They have one of the fastest wing-beat rates of all hummingbirds, at up to 70 flaps per second.

– Their heart rate can reach an incredible 1,260 beats per minute during flight.

– They have excellent color vision and spatial mapping skills to navigate dense forest environments.

– Their feet are quite small, with zygodactyl toes used mainly for perching rather than walking.

The brilliant crimson topaz hummingbird faces an uncertain future, but remains a true jewel of Central America’s avifauna. This rare beauty serves as an iconic reminder of the fragile interconnectivity between species and ecosystems. Increased conservation efforts are critical to preserve Central America’s unique biodiversity. With proper habitat protections, this dazzling pollinator and aerial artist can continue to thrive.