Diamantina Sabrewing Hummingbird Species

The Diamantina Sabrewing (Campylopterus diamantinensis) is a species of hummingbird found only in a small region of Brazil. With its bright emerald wings and long, curved bill, this rare bird has captivated ornithologists and bird enthusiasts since its discovery.

Physical Description
The Diamantina sabrewing is medium-sized for a hummingbird, measuring around 11-12 cm in length. The male has striking, iridescent emerald green plumage on its wings, back, crown, and throat. The undersides are white from the bill to the tip of the tail. The slightly shorter bill is reddish-pink and gently decurved. The female is similar but has bronze-green upperparts and whitish underparts with green spotting on the throat. Juveniles resemble adult females but with buffy edges to the feathers.

As with all hummingbirds, the sabrewing has tiny feet that are only used for perching, not walking or hopping. Their long, slender wings beat incredibly fast—up to 70 times per second—allowing these agile flyers to hover in place or swiftly change direction. This energetic flight requires a high metabolism. A hummingbird’s heart can beat up to 1,260 times per minute, with breathing occurring 250 times per minute even at rest.

Distribution and Habitat
The Diamantina sabrewing is endemic to a small region in eastern Brazil. Its entire global range covers only about 6500 square km in the states of Bahia and Minas Gerais. Specifically, it occupies mountain forests and woodlands interspersed with shrublands, at elevations of 800-1400 meters.

This species was only described scientifically in 2007, and very little is still known about its total population size and conservation status. Given its extremely limited distribution, the Diamantina sabrewing is likely vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation from agriculture, grazing, development, mining, and climate change. Most of its range exists outside of protected areas. More research and surveys are urgently needed to determine its population trends and survival prospects.

Like all hummingbirds, the Diamantina sabrewing feeds on nectar, visiting colorful flowers of shrubs and small trees such as inga and banana relatives. Their long bills are adapted for probing into curved flowers. While feeding, they play an important role as pollinators. They also supplement their diet with small insects like flies, beetles, and spiders.

The sabrewing inhabits mountain forest edges, clearings, and shrublands. Males are territorial and perform elaborate courtship displays to attract females. They fly in loops up to 100 feet in the air before diving back down past the female. Surprisingly little is known about this species’ breeding biology, nesting habits, migration patterns, or lifespan in the wild. More field studies are needed.

Taxonomically, the Diamantina sabrewing is classified in the family Trochilidae (hummingbirds) and placed in the genus Campylopterus (sabrewings). Its closest relatives appear to be other Brazilian endemic sabrewings such as the Gray-breasted Sabrewing and the Pin-tailed Manakin. In the field, it could potentially be confused with the widespread Violet-capped Woodnymph, but the latter has more violet and less green in its plumage.

Cultural Significance
Brazil’s lush Atlantic Forest remains a stronghold for many rare and endemic birds found nowhere else on Earth. Unfortunately, rampant deforestation over the past century has destroyed over 85% of this habitat. Birds like the Diamantina sabrewing highlight the vulnerability of Brazil’s unique biodiversity, especially little-known species with small distributions. This jewel-like hummingbird serves as a flagship species and reminder of what conservation efforts stand to protect in the region. Birdwatching tours in Minas Gerais often market chances to observe this rare hummingbird. It is also featured on commemorative postage stamps from Brazil. Continued ecotourism and habitat protection in its range will be key to ensuring the future survival of Diamantina sabrewing populations.

Conservation Status
The Diamantina sabrewing is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List, with an estimated global population of 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. Major threats come from habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation across its tiny range. Climate change poses an additional long-term threat. Parts of its range with higher levels of protection and connectivity will be crucial for maintaining viable populations. More surveys are needed to determine population trends and refine its conservation status. Raising local awareness and engaging communities in protecting this unique species will aid conservation efforts across its Brazilian mountain habitat. With proper habitat protection and ecotourism potential, there is hope to prevent this emerald jewel of Brazil’s avifauna from slipping closer to extinction.