Return of Bird of the Week: Sapphire-throated Hummingbird

This is a remarkably beautiful species that really, really doesn’t want WC to photograph it.

Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Darién, Panama

Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Darién, Panama

This photo illustrates what WC means: You can get an idea how handsome this male is, but the bill and part of the tail are partially obscured by the leaves and, in a recurrence of WC’s long-standing bird photography curse, the bird is banded.

This species prefers low elevations and spends most of its time in shrubs under the jungle canopy and on the edges of cleared areas. That’s the second challenge for this little hummingbird: it’s dark under there, and with an active hummingbird that means high ISO setting and attendant noise.

Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Costa Rica

Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Costa Rica

This second photo was taken at ISO10000, a starkly incredible setting for any photographer who grew up with film. WC has applied noise reduction to the background, but you cannot do so to feathers, so you can see some noise in the bird.

There are three subspecies recognized, and two of them are shown here. You can see the green crown is more extensive in the Costa Rican subspecies than the Panamanian. It’s fair to say that the systematics of this poorly studied species are uncertain. This is a smaller hummingbird, less than 3.5 inches long, with a fairly short bill. Like most hummingbirds, it is sexually dimorphic; the female lacks the iridescent blue throat. Both sexes have a beautiful back with a coppery rump that, this far at least, WC has not successfully photographed.

The species ranges from Costa Rica to Columbia. That extensive range is the basis for its classification as Least Threatened, but there are no population studies at all, so that’s an educated guess, at best.

For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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