Calothorax luciferLucifer hummingbird

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Geographic Range

The Lucifer Hummingbird is found primarily in central and northern Mexico. It is occasionally found as far north as southeast Arizona, southwest New Mexico, and west Texas.

Habitat

Habitats vary widely depending on the geographic location. The Lucifer hummingbird can be found in the plains, foothills, and on the sides of rocky hillsides throughout its range.

Physical Description

The lucifer hummingbird is medium-sized with fairly small wings, a long bill, and a deeply forked tail. The male hummingbird has a green forehead and purple iridescence along the sides of its neck, which is bordered by white on both sides. The female has an unusually curved bill, no iridescense, and is light brown around the breast and throat areas.

Reproduction

Lucifer hummingbirds do not form pair bonds and are probably polygamous, although the male does display with a mating dance at nests. Most displays occur during nestbuilding and egglaying. Display consists of the male flying back and forth between two perches, a vertical flight followed by a powerful spiraling dive towards the female, ending with erratic lateral flight. Copulation has yet to be observed. Breeding season is known to last from April to August.

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

Lucifer hummingbirds hover and make quick, straight flights between perches or the nest and foraging area. They also often go on specific flycatching flights. Males defend nectar plants against all conspecific hummingbirds, as well against black-chinned hummingbirds. Females defend the areas around the nests against other female hummingbirds and predator species. Social behavior between adults and juveniles does not exist. Nests are in close proximity to each other, and females often steal nest material and are aggressive towards each other.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The main sources of food for Lucifer hummingbirds include spiders, small insects (primarily flies), and nectar from various plant species. They take nectar from the flower tube while hovering, rather than by cutting the base or side of the stem. While defending nectar plants, Lucifers will sometimes capture small insects for food. This usually occurs during the early morning hours (8 am to 11 am). In one study, the hummingbirds made as many as 200 flycatching flights in the first hour (8-9 am) and as few as 13 in the third hour (11-12 am). This is probably because the insects are both more visible and more abundant in the early morning light. The female forages for spiders to feed their young.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

During the nineteenth century, the Lucifer hummingbird was captured to be stuffed and mounted, or sold alive. Members of this species may play a role in the pollination biology of some species of plants.

Conservation Status

The habitats frequented by the lucifer hummingbird (arid, rugged areas) may help to lessen the impact of humans on hummingbird populations. Information on the past abundance of the Lucifer hummingbird and its present status is lacking.

Other Comments

Mating displays among Lucifer hummingbirds are unique. While other hummingbird species perform flight displays away from nesting sites, the Lucifer hummingbird displays at the nests of females during nestbuilding and egg-laying. The reasons for this behavior are unknown.

Contributors

Jennifer Roof (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chaparral

Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Scott, Peter E. 1994. The Birds of North America. No. 134. The American Ornithologists' Union.

Ehrlich P., Dobkin D., Wheye D. 1988. The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. Simon and Schuster, Toronto.