White-bellied Hummingbird Species

The white-bellied hummingbird (Amazilia candida) is a small hummingbird species found in South America. With an average body length of 8-9 cm and weight of 3-4 grams, it is a tiny bird but one of the larger hummingbird species. Its plumage is mostly green above and white below, with the male having an iridescent purple throat patch or gorget.

Distribution and Habitat

The white-bellied hummingbird has a wide distribution across South America. Its range stretches from Colombia and Venezuela south through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. It is found in a variety of semi-open habitats including forest edges, woodland, savanna, shrubland, gardens, and parks. It occupies both tropical and subtropical climates at elevations up to 2000 meters.

Description and Identification

The white-bellied hummingbird gets its name from the conspicuous white underparts on the belly, flanks, and undertail. The belly is whitest centrally, becoming slightly grayer on the flanks. The male has iridescent emerald green upperparts and crown, with a prominent violet-blue throat gorget. The female is similar but lacks the gorget, instead having a white throat and pale gray-green underparts. Both sexes have a thin dark bill and whitish eye rings. The legs and feet are dark gray. The long tapered wings produce a humming sound in flight. The white undertail coverts are conspicuous in flight.

Food and Feeding

Like all hummingbirds, the white-bellied hummingbird feeds on nectar, visiting a wide variety of colorful tubular flowers. It favors flowers with a good amount of nectar that are located in open areas. It uses its specialized long bill and tongue to drink nectar while hovering. It also eats small insects and spiders to obtain proteins, vitamins, and minerals. To capture insect prey, the hummingbird perches and makes aerial flycatcher-like sallies.

Behavior and Breeding

The white-bellied hummingbird is solitary and territorial. Males sing to advertise their territories and attract females. Their song is a rapid series of high-pitched squeaky notes. Males display their iridescent gorgets during courtship flights to impress females. Once paired, the female constructs a tiny cup nest out of plant down, spider webs, and lichen on a branch or vine. She lays two tiny white eggs and incubates them for 14-19 days. The chicks hatch with their eyes closed and no feathers. They are cared for by the female alone. They fledge at about 18-26 days old.

Status and Conservation
The white-bellied hummingbird remains widespread and common within its range. Its populations appear to be stable, and it is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. No major threats to the species are known. As it inhabits a range of disturbed and human-modified habitats, it is adaptable to habitat changes. Providing nectar feeders and suitable flowers may help attract and support local populations. Keeping areas of native flowering plants and trees also provides habitat. Given its large range and stable numbers, the white-bellied hummingbird is in no need of specific conservation management.

Interesting Facts

– Like all hummingbirds, the white-bellied hummingbird can hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping its wings up to 70 times per second! This allows it to stay stationary while feeding on flowers.

– The hummingbird’s small size and high metabolism means it must consume up to twice its body weight in nectar each day to avoid starvation!

– To conserve energy overnight, the white-bellied hummingbird enters a hibernation-like state called torpor where its metabolic rate and body temperature significantly decrease.

– The species is named for 19th century French zoologist Frédéric de Lafresnaye, who first described the species in 1843. The “candida” part of the scientific name means “shining white” in Latin.

– Males are highly territorial and aggressively chase other males or even larger birds from their feeding areas. Their aerial displays and dogfights are remarkable given their tiny size!

In summary, the white-bellied hummingbird is a widespread and adaptable neotropical hummingbird species. It plays an important role as a pollinator across South America while dazzling human observers with its tiny size, speedy flight, and flashy colors. This species remains common and serves as a classic example of the diversity and appeal of hummingbirds.