Orange-throated Sunangel Hummingbird Species

The Orange-throated Sunangel (Heliangelus amethysticollis) is a unique and dazzling hummingbird found in the northern Andes mountains of South America. With its vibrant orange throat patch and glittering amethyst-colored crown, this hummingbird lives up to its evocative scientific name, which means “sun angel with an amethyst neck”.

Physical Description
The male orange-throated sunangel is unmistakable with its bright coloring. The throat and upper breast gleam a rich burnt orange color. The crown of the head and upper back shimmer with an iridescent amethyst coloring. The rest of the back and wings are an emerald green. The tail is forked and steel blue. Females lack the brilliant orange and amethyst hues. They have green upperparts, grey underparts, and a small orange spot on the throat. The straight bill of both sexes is reddish with a black tip. They measure 7-8 cm in length and weigh 5-7 grams.

Distribution and Habitat
The orange-throated sunangel is found along the Andes mountains from western Venezuela to northwestern Peru. Its habitat is montane forest edges, clearings, and scrub at elevations between 800-3000 meters. It prefers areas with plenty of flowering plants at forest borders.

Like all hummingbirds, the orange-throated sunangel feeds on nectar from flowering plants. It uses its specialized long bill and tongue to drink nectar while hovering in front of flowers. Some favorite nectar sources are plants from the families Bromeliaceae, Ericaceae, and Gesneriaceae. The species also hawks small insects to get essential proteins.

Courtship and Nesting
The mating displays of the male orange-throated sunangel are elaborate. He flies back and forth in an oval pattern, moving faster and faster while orienting his colorful throat and crown towards the female. If she is receptive, she will perch quietly and watch his performance. Once paired, the female builds a tiny cup nest on a low branch or tree fern. She constructs it out of plant fibers woven together with spider silk. Moss and lichen camouflage the outside. The inside is lined with soft plant down. She lays just two tiny white eggs. She incubates them alone for 15-19 days. Once hatched, both parents work to feed the chicks with regurgitated insects. The young fledge in 22-26 days.

The voice of the orange-throated sunangel is a high-pitched thin screep or tziip given in flight. At their display grounds, the males utter a continuous high-pitched twittering.

Status and Threats
The orange-throated sunangel has a wide distribution and large total population. Its numbers are suspected to be decreasing, but not yet rapidly enough to be considered threatened. Habitat loss is the main concern. The Andean forests this species inhabits are being cleared for agriculture, grazing, and human settlement. Climate change may also shift and reduce its preferred high elevation habitat. More research is needed to estimate population trends for this shining hummingbird. With persistent habitat conservation, the unique orange-throated sunangel will hopefully retain its sunlit place among the Andean forests.

In summary, the orange-throated sunangel is a stunning hummingbird endemic to the northern Andes mountains. The brightly colored males carry out elaborate courtship displays to wow potential mates. The tiny species feeds on nectar and insects in mountain forest borders. While still relatively common, habitat loss in the Andes poses the biggest threat to its future. Increased habitat conservation efforts focused on Andean forests will help ensure the persistence of these special hummingbirds into the future. With their glittering plumage and energetic flight, orange-throated sunangels remain gems highlighting the rich biodiversity found across the peaks and slopes of the northern Andes.