The Sapphire-vented Puffleg (Eriocnemis luciani) - also commonly referred to as Long-tailed Puffleg - is a sedentary (non-migratory) South American hummingbird that occurs naturally in the Andes of southwest Colombia (Nariño), western Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.
It is the largest and most widely distributed of all pufflegs found along the east slope of Andes, south and east of Maranon Valley. Even though they are not reported from Peru north of Maranon, they but might occur there.
Their preferred habitat includes elfin forest, humid montane forests (particularly at forest openings), bushy and grassy paramo slopes, and along the forest edge. They are usually found at elevations from 7,800 to 13,000 ft (2,400 - 4,000 m).
- Sapphire-vented Puffleg - Eriocnemis luciani luciani (Bourcier, 1847) - Nominate race
- Range: Ecuador
- Eriocnemis luciani meridae (Schuchmann, Weller and Heynen, 2001)
- Range: Paramo Conejos, Mérida Andes, western Venezuela, 3000m)
- Range: Southern Ecuador
- Range: Northern Peru
- Eriocnemis luciani soederstroem - Some consider it a hybrid or a race or aberrant form of the Turquoise-throated Puffleg (Eriocnemis godini) - a possibly extinct race.Eriocnemis luciani isaacsonii - Known only from three Bogotá trade skins which are not identical. May be a hybrid.Coppery-naped Puffleg (Eriocnemis [luciani] sapphiropygia) (Taczanowski, 1874)
- Range: Central to southern Peru
Even though some authorities consider the Coppery-naped Puffleg (Eriocnemis [luciani] sapphiropygia) a subspecies of the Sapphire-vented Puffleg, physical differences support treatment as separate species.
- Range: Central to southern Peru
Alternate (Global) Names
Spanish: Calzadito Colilargo Norteño, Calzoncitos Colilargo, Colibrí Pantalón de Frente Azul ... Italian: Colibrì zampepiumose codazaffiro, Fiocchetto culzaffiro ... French: Érione catherine ... German: Blaustirn-Schneehöschen ... Danish: Kilehalet Kvastben ... Czech: Kolibrík modrobrichý, kolib?ík safíro?itý ... Finnish: Safiirisukkakolibri ... Japanese: aoharawataashihachidori ... Dutch: Saffierpluimbroekje ... Norwegian: Langhaledunfot ... Slovak: pancuchárik zafírový ... Swedish: Kilstjärtad tofsbena
The Sapphire-vented Puffleg measures 4.5 - 4.7 inches (11.5 - 12 cm) in length (including bill and tail). Its straight, black bill is about 0.8 inches (2 cm) long. It has a long, deeply forked, blue tail. It has distinctive small white eye spots.
The plumage is mostly a glossy green with purplish blue under tail feathers.
This species was named for the snow-white dense feathering around the legs known as "leg puffs" (which are not always visible). These leg puffs are unique to the pufflegs and have been described as resembling "woolly panties" or "little cotton balls" above the legs.
The female looks similar, but her plumage is generally duller and she is variably flecked with white on her under plumage.
Nesting / Breeding
The Sapphire-vented Puffleg's breeding season likely commences in February or March.
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-vented Puffleg 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 7 - 10 days old.
Diet / Feeding
The Sapphire-vented Pufflegs 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.
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