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A photo of a Scintillant Hummingbird (Selasphorus scintilla), male
Scintillant Hummingbird, Male

Scintillant Hummingbird

Selasphorus scintilla

The Scintillant Hummingbird, Selasphorus scintilla, is a diminutive avian jewel endemic to the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama. This species, one of the tiniest birds in existence, is marginally larger than the bee hummingbird, with a length of 6.5–8 cm, including its short, straight, black bill. The male, weighing a mere 2 grams, boasts bronze-green upperparts and a rufous and black-striped tail. His throat shimmers with a brilliant red, set off by a white neck band and contrasting with the cinnamon hue of his underparts. The female, slightly heavier at 2.3 grams, is similar in appearance but has a buff throat with small green spots and richer rufous flanks. Juveniles resemble the female but have rufous fringes to their upperpart plumage.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Scintillant Hummingbird, look for the male's distinctive red throat and the white band separating it from the cinnamon underparts. The female's buff throat with green spots and rufous flanks are also key characteristics. The bird's diminutive size and straight black bill are additional identification markers.

Habitat

The Scintillant Hummingbird favors brushy forest edges, coffee plantations, and occasionally gardens. It thrives at altitudes ranging from 900 to 2,000 meters, ascending to 2,500 meters when not in the breeding season.

Distribution

This species is confined to the mountainous regions of Costa Rica and Panama, where it can be found up to the elevations where its relative, the Volcano Hummingbird, takes over.

Behaviour

Outside the breeding season, males of the Scintillant Hummingbird can be seen perching conspicuously in open areas with Salvia, where they defend their feeding territories with vigorous diving displays.

Song & Calls

The Scintillant Hummingbird's vocalization is a liquid "tsip," a sound that can often be heard within its mountainous habitat.

Breeding

Breeding responsibilities fall solely on the female Scintillant Hummingbird. She constructs a tiny plant-floss cup nest, typically 1–4 meters above ground in a scrub. After laying two white eggs, she incubates them for 15–19 days, and the fledglings take their first flight after another 20–26 days.

Diet and Feeding

Nectar from a variety of small flowers, including those of the Salvia genus and others typically pollinated by insects, comprises the diet of the Scintillant Hummingbird. It also consumes small insects, which are crucial for protein intake.

Conservation status

The Scintillant Hummingbird is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that, for now, this species does not face immediate threats to its survival. It is also included in CITES Appendix II, reflecting the need to monitor international trade to ensure it does not threaten the species.

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