The Ruby-topaz Hummingbirds (Chrysolampis mosquitus) - or simply referred to as "Ruby Topazes" -- occur naturally from southern Panama (the southernmost country of Central America) south through the South American countries of Colombia, Venezuela and the Guyanas to north-eastern and central Brazil and northern Bolivia.
They are also found on the Lesser Antilles island group and south on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean Sea.
They occur from sea-level to shrubby arid hillsides, up to an altitude of ~5,600 ft (1700 m), but are most common below 1,600 feet (500 m).
These aggressive birds are commonly seen in gardens, cultivated areas, open country and along the forest edge, where they forage from low down to treetops.
They appear to be sedentary within parts of their range and seasonally migratory in others.
In Brazil, they perform north-south migrations; travelling along the coastal regions of the Guyanas, Venezuela and Colombia, where they are likely doing an east-west migration, moving southwards to Colombia where they arrive in May and leave again in September.
Some migratory movements are also suspected to occur on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. However, their movements are still poorly understood.
Alternate (Global) Names
Portuguese: Beija-flor-vermelho; Spanish: Colibrí Rubí; Italian: Colibrì rubino-topazio; French: Colibri rubis-topaze; German: Moskitokolibri; Dutch: Rode Kolibrie
The Ruby Topaz Hummingbirds measure between 3.1 - 3.5 inches (~8 - 9 cm) in length (including the tail) and weigh between 0.1 - 0.2 oz (3.5 - 5 g).
The black bill is short and straight; the eyes are dark brown, and the legs and feet are blackish.
This hummingbird shows great variances as far as the color of plumage is concerned. In poor light conditions, the plumage appears dull blackish-brown. In the right light conditions, the brilliant iridescence of its plumage can be seen.
The adult male has an iridescent green dark/brown upper plumage with a brilliant ruby red to orangey crown (top of the head) and nape (back of the neck) and a shiny golden to emerald-green throat and chest (depending on light conditions). In poor light conditions, the male often looks dark. His under plumage is brown. His chestnut-colored tail is tipped black. The wings are dark grey.
While perched, the males often spread their tail and ruffle their crown feathers in a display.
The adult female Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (depicted above) has a mostly bronze-green upper plumage and is pale grey below. She has a dark chin stripe. Her tail is chestnut-colored with white tips.
Juveniles look like the adult females. Immature males have a white spot behind the eye and the outer tail feathers are violet with white tips.
Regional Differences: Specimen from Trinidad and Tobago occasionally have a greenish-orangey stripe from the chin, down to the chest.
Call / Vocalization:
The Ruby Topazes call is described as very short, high-pitched tsii tsii tsii. They also utter chirps and whistles, and a series of rapid chattering.
Nesting / Breeding
The breeding season of the Ruby Topaz Hummingbirds differs according to the range they are found in. On the islands of Trinidad and Tobago it starts in December and goes on until June. In Brazil, they breed from September through January.
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.
The male Ruby Topaz performs a courtship display to attract females. He quickly circles the female, flashing his bright colors by fanning widely the chestnut tail and raising the ruby-red crown feathers.
He 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 is responsible for building the 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 - usually in the fork of a small branch about 3 - 13 feet (1 - 4 m) above the ground.
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 outside is decorated with lichens and pieces of bark, which present a perfect camouflage for the nest.
The average clutch consists of 1 to 3 white eggs, which she incubates alone for about 15 - 16 days, while the male defends his territory and the flowers he feeds on. The black chicks are born blind, covered in sparse brownish down on the back. The female alone protects and feeds the chicks with regurgitated food (mostly insects since nectar is an insufficient source of protein for the growing chicks). 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 19 -22 days old. She usually raises on brood in a season. The young are ready to breed in their second year.
Diet / Feeding
The Ruby-Topaz Hummingbirds primarily feed on nectar taken from a variety of brightly colored, scented small flowers of trees, shrubs, epiphytes and cacti. 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 are particularly fond of the flowers of the Samaan tree and the ixora plant.
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.
The male Ruby Topaz makes a series of aggressive and rapid chattering calls when another bird enters his feeding territory.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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