Grey-breasted Sabrewings

Grey-breasted Sabrewings

Hummingbird Information

Grey-breasted Sabrewing (Campylopterus largipennis)

Grey-breasted Sabrewing (Campylopterus largipennis) The Grey-breasted Sabrewing (Campylopterus largipennis) - also known as Bronze-shafted or Tail-coated Sabrewing - is a hummingbird that occurs naturally east of the Andes in tropical South America where this species is generally common.


Alternate (Global) Names

Spanish: Ala de Sable Gris, Ala-de-sable Pechigrís, Colibrí Pechigrís ... Portuguese: asa-de-sabre, Asa-de-sabre-cinza ... Italian: Campilottero pettogrigio, Sciabolatore pettogrigio ... French: Campyloptère à larges tuyaux, Campyloptère à ventre gris, Campyloptère obscur ... Danish: Gråbrystet Sabelvinge ... German: Graubrust-Degenflügel ... Finnish: Harmaasapelikolibri ... Dutch: Grijsborstsabelvleugel ... Norwegian: Gråbrystsabelvinge ... Polish: zapylak szary ... Russian: Серогрудый саблекрыл ... Slovak: kolibrík sivý ... Czech: Kolibrík šedoprsý, kolibřík šedoprsý ... Swedish: Gråbröstad sabelvinge ... Japanese: haibarakembanehachidori, haibarakenbanehachidori


Distribution / Range

The Grey-breasted Sabrewing's natural range includes the humid forests of the Guianas and the Amazon Basin, where they are usually found along the forest borders and clearings. They are often seen foraging in banana plantations.

Subspecies and Distribution:

  • Campylopterus largipennis largipennis (Boddaert, 1783)
    • Found in eastern Venezuela, the Guianas and Negro river region of northwestern Brazil.
  • Campylopterus largipennis aequatorialis (Gould, 1861)
    • Found in eastern Colombia, eastern Ecuador, eastern Peru and northern Bolivia to northwestern Brazil
  • Campylopterus largipennis diamantinensis (Ruschi, 1963)
    • Found in forests and woodland areas in Bahia and Minas Gerais in eastern Brazil
  • Campylopterus largipennis obscurus (Gould, 1848)
    • Range: Eastern Pará and Maranhão in northeastern Brazi).

Grey-breasted Sabrewing (Campylopterus largipennis)


Grey-breasted Sabrewing (Campylopterus largipennis) Description

The Grey-breasted Sabrewing is a relatively large hummingbird that measures about 13 cm or 5.25 inches in length (including beak and tail).

Its bill is slightly down-curved. The lower bill is black and the upper bill is flesh-colored.

Its head, upper plumage and sides are metallic grass green. It has a distinctive white spot behind its eyes. The plumage below is grey.

The Sabrewings are named for their long, sabre-like outermost primary flight feathers, which are thickened, flattened and bent at an angle.

The wings of the Grey-breasted Sabrewings are purplish / dark blue-brown - sometimes nearly black.

The dark blue tail has broad white tips.


Calls / Vocalizations

Their vocalizations during feeding are described as sharp twitters or "chip.' sounds.

The male's song is a high-pitched piercing cheep tsew cheep tik-tik tsew.


Grey-breasted Sabrewing (Campylopterus largipennis) Nesting / Breeding

Hummingbirds in general are solitary and neither live nor migrate in flocks; and there is no pair bond for this species - the male's only involvement in the reproductive process is the actual mating with the female.

During the breeding seasons, male Grey-breasted Sabrewings typically gather in leks (competitive mating display) consisting of up to 10 males (most often 4 to 6). The males will sing to the females to gain their goodwill. They may fly in front of them in a u-shaped pattern.

The male will separate from the female immediately after copulation. One male may mate with several females. In all likelihood, the female will also mate with several males. The males do not participate in choosing the nest location, building the nest or raising the chicks.

The female Grey-breasted Sabrewing is responsible for building the fairly large cup-shaped nest out of plant fibers woven together and green moss on the outside for camouflage in a protected location in a shrub, bush or tree. She lines the nest with soft plant fibers, animal hair and feather down, and strengthens the structure with spider webbing and other sticky material, giving it an elastic quality to allow it to stretch to double its size as the chicks grow and need more room. The nest is typically found on a low, thin horizontal branch.

The average clutch consists of one white egg, which she incubates alone, while the male defends his territory and the flowers he feeds on. The young are born blind, immobile and without any down.

The female alone protects and feeds the chicks with regurgitated food (mostly partially-digested insects since nectar is an insufficient source of protein for the growing chicks). The female pushes the food down the chicks' throats with her long bill directly into their stomachs.

As is the case with other hummingbird species, the chicks are brooded only the first week or two, and left alone even on cooler nights after about 12 days - probably due to the small nest size. The chicks leave the nest when they are about 20 days old.


Grey-breasted Sabrewing (Campylopterus largipennis) Diet / Feeding

The Grey-breasted Sabrewings primarily feed on nectar taken from a variety of brightly colored, scented small flowers of trees, herbs, shrubs and epiphytes. They favor heliconia and banana flowers; but may also visit some flowers that open during the night for bats.

They favor flowers with the highest sugar content (often red-colored and tubular-shaped) and seek out, and aggressively protect, those areas containing flowers with high energy nectar. They use their long, extendible, straw-like tongues to retrieve the nectar while hovering with their tails cocked upward as they are licking at the nectar up to 13 times per second. Sometimes they may be seen hanging on the flower while feeding.

Many native and cultivated plants on whose flowers these birds feed heavily rely on them for pollination. The mostly tubular-shaped flowers actually exclude most bees and butterflies from feeding on them and, subsequently, from pollinating the plants.

They may also visit local hummingbird feeders for some sugar water, or drink out of bird baths or water fountains where they will either hover and sip water as it runs over the edge; or they will perch on the edge and drink - like all the other birds; however, they only remain still for a short moment.

They also take some small spiders and insects - important sources of protein particularly needed during the breeding season to ensure the proper development of their young. Insects are often caught in flight (hawking); snatched off leaves or branches, or are taken from spider webs. A nesting female can capture up to 2,000 insects a day.

Males establish feeding territories, where they aggressively chase away other males as well as large insects - such as bumblebees and hawk moths - that want to feed in their territory. They use aerial flights and intimidating displays to defend their territories.


Metabolism and Survival and Flight Adaptions - Amazing Facts

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson

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