This week’s Travel Photo of the Week is a Violet Sabrewing hummingbird in Costa Rica. Humming birds are among the world’s smallest birds and range from southern Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in South America and the Caribbean. By flapping their wings between 12-90 times a second they are capable of mid-air hovering and even backwards flight. The Violet Saberwing native to southern Mexico and Central America is the largest hummingbird found outside of South America, with this week’s hailing from Monte Verde, Costa Rica. This species of hummingbird is typically found in elevations from 3,000 to 5,500 feet above sea level and feeds primarily on the nectar of heliconias and banana plants.
Hummingbirds are an important new world tropics pollinator, several hummingbirds and plants have co-evolved to be mutually beneficial, as evidenced in the curved bill of this species which is well adapted for nectar feeding and pollination of helicons. Different bill shapes are adapted to pollinate different flower shapes. Violet Saberwings utilize a feeding strategy known as trap-lining where they follow a long fixed route. Hummingbirds dine primarily on nectar, a sugar rich liquid produced by plants and have a metabolism so high that they purposely avoid plants that have a 10% or less concentration of sugar. Consuming their weight in nectar drives their high metabolism but they must augment their diet with insects to get critical nutrients. To keep their wings moving humming birds hearts must beat at a rapid speed with a record high of 1,260 beats a minute.
This high speed life, with high volume demand for nectar, often leaves them hours away from starvation, most species can only store enough energy to survive the night. When food is not readily available they are capable of slowing their metabolism to a hibernation like state to survive.
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