Sapphire-spangled Emeralds

Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Amazilia lactea
Hummingbird Information

Distribution / Habitat ... Subspecies and Ranges

Description ... Alternate (Global) Names

Breeding / Nesting ... Diet / Feeding

Hummingbird Metabolism and Survival and Flight Adaption


The Sapphire-spangled Emeralds (Amazilia lactea) - also known as Tepui Emeralds or Bartlett’s Emeralds - are South American hummingbirds.

Distribution / Habitat

They occur naturally in Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia and central and south-east Brazil (from the Amazon south to Santa Catarina). There are some unconfirmed records from east Ecuador.

They are relatively common in at least part of their natural range.

They inhabit mountainous regions, forest edges and gardens in urban areas.

Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Amazilia lactea Subspecies and Distribution:

  • Sapphire-spangled Emerald (Amazilia lactea lactea - Lesson, 1832) - Nominate Race
    • Range: Central and southern Brazil from southern Bahia to São Paul

  • Tepui Emerald - Amazilia lactea zimmeri (Gilliard, 1941)
    • Range: Southeastern Venezuela

  • Bartlett’s Emerald - Amazilia lactea bartletti (Gould, 1866)
    • Range: Eastern and southeastern Peru and northern Bolivia; doubtfully extreme eastern Ecuador

Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Amazilia lactea Alternate (Global) Names

Chinese: ???? ... Czech: Kolibrík safírový, kolib?ík safírový ... Danish: Safiramazilie ... Dutch: Saffieramazilia ... German: Saphir Amazilie, Saphiramazilie ... Finnish: Purppurakurkkukolibri ... French: Ariane saphirine, Émeraude à saphirs, Polyerata lactea ... Italian: Amazilia ornata di zaffiro, Smeraldo macchiezaffiro ... Japanese: shirosujiemerarudohachidori ... Norwegian: Fiolstrupekolibri ... Polish: szmaragdzik mleczny ... Portuguese: Beija-flor-de-peito-azul ... Russian: ?????????? ???????? ... Slovak: kolibrík jagavý ... Spanish: Amazilia Zafirina, Diamante de Pecho Zafiro, Diamante Pechizafiro ... Swedish: Violettstrupsmaragd


Sapphire-spangled Emeralds were named for the bright "sapphire" blue chest and chin coloration. The plumage below is green-blue abdomen with a white stripe running down the middle of its torso. The bill is almost straight; with a black upper mandible (bill) and pink lower mandible. Males and females look alike.

Similar Species:

They resemble the Glittering-throated Emerald; but can be identified by the glittering sapphire violet-blue coloration on the throat, chest and the sides of its neck.

Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Amazilia lactea - female on nest

Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Amazilia lactea Nesting / Breeding

In Brazil, the Sapphire-spangled Hummingbirds typically breed in the spring (September - December).

Hummingbirds are solitary in all aspects of life other than breeding; and the male's only involvement in the reproductive process is the actual mating with the female. They neither live nor migrate in flocks; and there is no pair bond for this species. Males court females by flying in a u-shaped pattern in front of them. 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 Sapphire-spangled Emerald 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. 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 two white eggs, 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 19 days old.

Diet / Feeding

Sapphire-spangled Emeralds primarily feed on nectar taken from a variety of brightly colored, scented small flowers of trees, herbs, shrubs and epiphytes. 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.


Species Research by Sibylle Johnson


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