Xantus Hummingbird is a medium-sized hummingbird that can only be found in Baja, California. The bird is deemed to be the most distinctive among the few Baja specialty birds. It grows to a length of 3-3.5 inches, and weighs about 3-4 grams upon maturity. It was named after a Hungarian zoologist, John Xantus de Vesey.
The predominant color on the upper parts and back of Adult Xanthus Hummingbirds is green. They have a mostly dark reddish-brown tail that has faint black tips, although the two inner retraces are green.
Their most remarkable feature is the white eye-stripe that occurs in both males and females, the same as that of the related species White-eared Hummingbird. A bold black stripe bordering the lower side complements the white stripe.
Both males and females have cinnamon-brown underparts, including the undertail coverts. The cinnamon coloration covers the female’s throat, highlighting the difference with the White-eared Hummingbird’s contrasting white undertail coverts.
The male Xantus Hummingbird shows an iridescent green throat, although it is often seen as black when not hit by direct sunlight. While his crown is a little greenish, it looks like black from different perspectives. He has a slightly curved reddish bill that has a black tip.
The diet of Xantus Hummingbird consists of nectar from flowers and flowering trees. Their favorite flowers are those with the highest sugar content, which are usually red-colored and tubular-shaped. They exhibit territoriality in defending these nectar-rich locations.
The birds derive the nectar using their long, extendable tongue. They do this while they hover their tails cocked upward as they lick the nectar up to 13 times per second.
Other than nectar, they would also catch insects on the wing as a source of protein. They need the protein supply for the proper development of their young. They capture the insects through hawking, snatching them off from leaves or branches, and taking them from spider webs.
Sometimes, they visit local hummingbird feeders for some sugar water.
Distribution and Habitat
The Xantus’ Hummingbird’s preferred habitat locations are open brushy forests and scrublands, as well as arable regions. They can also be observed in both tropical and subtropical environments.
The Xantus’ Hummingbird’s limited range reaches up to only 42,000 square kilometres. The bird’s breeding habitat occurs in Mexico’s southern Baja Peninsula, where the species is considered endemic. Some Xantus’ Hummingbirds visit the Isla San Jose, an island in the Gulf of California, off the east coast of the Baja California peninsula. Moreover, it has a vagrant status up the Pacific coast of North America to British Columbia in Canada.
Behavior and Ecology
Similar to other hummingbirds, Xantus Hummingbirds are also known as precision flyers. They direct and hover flights with very rapid wingbeats.
They are also solitary in most aspects of their lives, aside from breeding. They do not live or migrate in groups. Also, there is no bonding that is formed between pairs.
Male Xantus’ Hummingbirds also exhibit a courtship display, just like the males of other hummingbird species. They would fly in a U-shaped pattern in front of the subject female. After copulation, the male will already leave the female. He will probably mate with other individuals in one season.
The female, on the other hand, takes charge of constructing the nest. The nest is shaped like a cup and is made up of plant fibers that are woven together. The nest is camouflaged with green moss and lichens on the outside to avoid predators. Then, the nest is lined with an elastic material such as spider webbing for an elastic quality. This is important especially since the chicks grow in size. Consequently, the nest also expands until it is stretched to double its original size.
The female lays two white eggs in average. She will incubate the eggs for about 15 days. Upon hatching, the young are born in a helpless condition – generally blind, immobile, and without any down. The young birds fledge the nest after about 20 days.
While the global population of the species remains unknown, it has been referred to as ‘frequent’ in portions of its breeding range. And because of this, the IUCN has classified the species under the ‘Least Concern’ category.
However, despite the species’ stable populations, their limited range in Baja, California has been cited as an area of concern. It has been claimed that any major disturbance or intervention in their breeding habitat could have a significant impact on the species’ population.