Lampornis clemenciaeblue-throated hummingbird

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Geographic Range

The blue-throated hummingbird breeds mostly in the mountains of southern Arizona, extending into New Mexico, western Texas, and continuing south through the mountains of Mexico. Their Mexican range follows the highlands and central plateau as far south as Oaxaca. Rare sightings have been recorded in California, Colorado, northeastern New Mexico, Eastern Texas and Louisiana.

(Johnsgard, 1983)

Habitat

The blue-throated hummingbird is usually found near water. Prefers pine-oak forests, but will feed in open areas. They inhabit slightly higher elevations of the mountains within its described range, coming down to the lower elavations during the winter months. Average elevation ranges from 1800 to 3300 m.

(Howell, 2002; Johnsgard, 1983)

  • Range elevation
    300 to 3900 m
    984.25 to 12795.28 ft
  • Average elevation
    3300 m
    10826.77 ft

Physical Description

Blue-throated hummingbirds are among the largest of hummingbirds. They have a relatively short bill and a large broad tail with the outer most retrices edged in white. Males have a green dusky auricular mask. The brilliant blue throat is unmistakable in adult males, but is not aslways easily seen; it usually appears a soft gray color. The upper body is a bronzy green to golden green with a bronzier rump and darker green to blackish upper tail somethimes washed with a tinge of blue. The underside is a uniform light gray. The wings are a darker gray with some green mottling towards the top. Immature males resemble the adult male, but lack the full blue throat. Adult and immature females are very simalar to males, but do not show any blue coloration in the throat at all. Typical of the species regardless of sex or age is the double white facial stripes; an easy field mark to see regardless of light conditions.

Wingspans are typically 68.5 mm for females and 79 mm for males.

(Johnsgard, 1983; Howell, 2002)

  • Average mass
    7.6 g
    0.27 oz
  • Average mass
    7.6 g
    0.27 oz
    AnAge
  • Range length
    110 to 140 mm
    4.33 to 5.51 in
  • Average wingspan
    73.75 mm
    2.90 in

Reproduction

The female is the whole works behind reproduction in blue-throated hummingbirds. She chooses the nest site and builds the nest. Females also incubate the eggs and feed the young. Blue-throated hummingbirds have a unique nesting preference among other North American hummingbirds. The female will often seek for a covered area to nest under, such as a rock canyon wall, rock overhangs and under human structures as in under roofs.

(Johnsgard, 1983)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding may occur between February and September, depending on location
  • Average eggs per season
    2
  • Average eggs per season
    2
    AnAge
  • Range time to hatching
    17 to 18 days
  • Range fledging age
    24 to 29 days

Parental care is the sole responsibility of the female. The male goes to higher elavations after mating is over.

Lifespan/Longevity

There is little known about the average lifespan of adult birds apart from anecdotal reports of long-lived birds. A female had nested in the same nest for 10 recorded years producing 3 broods each year. On that tenth year the nest measured 127 mm high and 63 mm wide with an estimated 24,000 kilometers of spider and insect thread. When her nest was removed, she proceeded to build another nest within a month and produced 2 more eggs. A male has been recorded living for 12 years.

(Johnsgard, 1983)

Behavior

Blue-throated hummingbirds are not easy to see, although they are quite vocal. Often they will feed and perch at low to mid-levels of its environment or will tuck themselves inside flower banks and feed under cover. Individuals that are accustomed to feeders may be seen perched on fences or wires.

(Howell, 2002)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Blue-throated hummingbirds feed on nectar and small arthropods. They search around the flowers and leaves of plants for various insects, spiders, and plant lice. Upon inspection of 3 stomachs of blue-throated hummingbirds different types of insects were found such as small beetles, spiders, fles, and wasps. During peak blooming of certain species of flowers and shrubs they will actively search for nectar. Such nectar sources may include and not be limited to various Salvia species, Penstemon, Lobelia laxiflora and Nicotiana. Blue-throated hummingbirds also frequent honeysuckle, gilia, and agave to feed on the insects attracted to the flowers. This heavy diet of insects allows them to survive and thrive in areas where more nectar dependant species can not, thus resulting in larger territories and higher success in brood production.

(Johnsgard, 1983)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • nectar

Predation

Hummingbirds in general have adapted several ways to avoid predation. To avoid predators while nesting, females will use mosses and lichens from the tree they are nesting in to make the nest virtually disappear. Hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds but they attack like no other. Hummingbirds have been known to attack hawks in defense of their nests and young. Even humans are not exempt from these attacks.

Ecosystem Roles

The major role of blue-throated hummingbirds is pollination of flowers and shrubs.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Ecotourism is the most positive econonomic benefit blue-throated hummingbirds can provide for humans. Arizona is the hummingbird capital of the U.S.

Conservation Status

Hummingbirds in general are declining mostly due to habitat loss. Several species are being affected mostly due to loss of wintering grounds.

Other Comments

Blue-throated hummingbirds have the slowest wingbeats of the North American species. There is a visual and audible difference between the blue-throated and the much faster beats of the Magnificent Hummingbird Eugenes fulgens.

Lampornis clemenciae is broken down into three subspecies. L. clemenciae bessophilus, which inhabits the southwestern United States, is slightly duller above and paler below. L. clemenciae clemenciae, found in central Mexico, and L. clemenciae phasmorus, found in Texas, differ from L.c. bessophilus by being slightly greener with a slightly shorter bill on average.

(Howell, 2002)

Contributors

Patrick Burritt (author), University of Arizona, Jay Taylor (editor), University of Arizona.

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

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

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.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

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.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

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

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

oviparous

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

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

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

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Howell, S. 2002. Hummingbirds of North America, The Photographic Guide. San Diego, California: Academic Press.

Johnsgard, P. 1983. The Hummingbirds of North America. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute Press.

Sibley, D. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..

Sibley, D., C. Elphik, J. Dunning, Jr.. 2001. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.