Sword-billed Hummingbird – A Tropical Rainforest Wonder

Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera)
Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) | Source

Thousands of people journey to Ecuador to marvel at the astonishing biodiversity of this tiny nation. With over 1,600 species of birds to observe, none fascinates the spectator more than the Sword-billed Hummingbird of the tropical rainforest. Its impressive snout draws attention to this unusual species making it an essential addition to the journals of adventurous travelers. One glimpse at this astounding creature and it is easily understood how it acquired its Latin name, Ensifera : sword-wielder.

Range

Although rare, there are certain areas where the Sword-billed Hummingbird can be viewed on a regular basis. Ranging from western Venezuela to western Bolivia along the Andean slopes, these spectacular birds can be observed from altitudes of 2,500 to 3,500 (8,000 to 11,500 ft). Although scarcely seen in the Inter-Andean valley, reserves such as Pasachoa Wildlife Refuge near Quito Ecuador claim regular visits by this welcome guest. 

The Sword-billed Hummingbird is a regular visitant to the feeders at Yanacocha Reserve near Quito. Along with Golden-chested and Sapphire-vented Pufflegs, Great Sapphirewings, Buff-winged Starfrontlets and many more, this incomparable species can be observed vying for the nectar provided by the park. Seen both hovering and perching near the feeders, it is easily recorded by photographers hoping for an award-winning image.

Sword-billed Hummingbird
Sword-billed Hummingbird | Source

Appearance

The Sword-billed Hummingbird is the only species where its bill exceeds the length of its body. From the base of the beak to the tip of the tail, this creature has a total length of 13- 13.5 cm (5 – 5 ¼ in). Its total body dimension minus the tail feathers makes it less than 9 cm (3.5 in). With a bill of 90 – 100 mm (3.5 – 4 in) one can see why this bird has such an astounding appearance. The beak is slightly upswept and exceptionally long. When perched, this little jewel will keep its head elevated as if to maintain its balance and reduce the strain on its neck.

The male of the species is a brilliant green in coloration with a slight bronzy tint to the head and neck. It exhibits a small white spot behind its eye. There is a definite blackish hue to the throat with the chest and sides of neck displaying a duller greenish gleam. The lower under-parts are a mixture of gray and glistening emerald. The Sword-bill has a bronze tinted tail which is long and forked. The female can be distinguished by having a more coppery bronze on the head and whitish under-parts that are thickly spotted with green. The tail is much shorter and less severely forked.

Habits

Most observers barely have a glimpse of this illusive little creature as it zips by at break-neck speeds. However, this bird is easily recognizable even if viewed for a second. Its distinctive bill betrays its identity as it scurries through the forest growth. While perched this hummingbird can look similar to a twig on a tree due to its habit of elevating its head while resting. Owing to its formidable bill, the Sword-billed Hummingbird can reach deep into flowers that other birds must attack from the base. Datura flowers are at the top of its menu. Although not exceptionally vocal, it is easily noticed by the audible hum of its wings while flying or hovering near delectable corollas.

Summary

The Sword-billed Hummingbird is an essential addition to any avid bird-watchers database. While rather scarce in most areas, visitors to Quito Ecuador have an occasion to observe this precious bird within a few minutes drive from the city. Yanacocha Reserve offers a window of opportunity for anyone who loves wildlife and wishes to see one of the wonders of nature.

In addition to Yanacocha Reserve, the Sword-billed Hummingbird can be observed at Guango Lodge & Reserve, Huashapamba Forest Reserve, Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge, Podocarpus-Cajanuma, and Papallacta Pass,

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Comments 33 comments

naturegirl7 profile image

naturegirl7 5 years ago from South Louisiana

Wonderful hub. I've always wanted to take a trip to see the hummingbirds of the Rain Forests. I'm going to have to check out more of your hubs.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Naturegirl. The rainforest is a fascinating place full of adventure. Plenty to see.


CYBERSUPE profile image

CYBERSUPE 5 years ago from MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.

Very interesting and most informative. My wife and I love to watch Hummingbirds at our out door feeders. This sword-billed hummingbird is absolutly beautiful. Would love to visit with you for some bird watching.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Come down anytime. Would love to go birding with you. Thanks for the comment.


bluebird profile image

bluebird 5 years ago

Good hub! Who doesn't love those cute, busy, amazing little mini-birds! Ecuador sounds amazing.

I'll have to come visit sometime (yeah, right!)

Wish I could, really.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Come down anytime Bluebird. That are many birds to see.


GreenThumbLady profile image

GreenThumbLady 5 years ago from The Beautiful Earth

These birds are gorgeous! I am just dying to get to the rainforest..I may never come home though!


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

It is a beautiful place. Thanks GT Lady


Yourglobalgirl profile image

Yourglobalgirl 5 years ago from UK

What a beautiful hub. I have seen hummingbirds in Cuba but not one like this. I think they are really exquisite.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

They are beautiful to watch in flight. I could sit an observe them for hours.


Drood profile image

Drood 5 years ago

brilliant. i am horribly jealous that this is how you spend your time. good info and great references. thanks. luv those hummers. going to check your other hubs. keep it up.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks Drood, appreciate the feedback. It's a tough life but someone has to do it.


Fay Paxton 5 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing this information. I find hummingbirds fascinating. When I was a little girl, I used to run myself ragged trying to catch them.

Beautiful photography.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Fay. There are only 16 species in North America and you don't get to see them as often. Here there are over 130 species and it is difficult to keep up with them all. It is still fascinating to watch them.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 5 years ago from Maui and Arizona

130 species of hummbingbirds! Wow.

This hub is great. Thanks for another beautiful bird lesson. By the way, I'm still wishing I could learn to do the photoshop illustrating like you've described. Did you learn on your own or did you take a course -- or several courses to learn how to illustrate birds using photoshop?


TajSingh 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi ColibriPhoto. Your hub has sparked my interest. After reading about the sword-billed hummingbird, I wanted to learn more. I'd like to add that this bird grooms itself using its feet.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks Pamela, I had been using PS a lot for my photos but when I started with the illustrations it was mostly trial and error. Lynda.com is a great place to learn about how to use PS. You might want to try it for a month and see. I will help you in any way that I can.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks Tajsingh, your right about the sword-billed having to groom itself with its feet. I can't seem to swing that bill around. It is a beautiful bird and a wonder of nature.


Fluffy77 profile image

Fluffy77 5 years ago from Enterprise, OR

So lovely, this would be worth the trip just to see such a wonderful beauty of a hummingbird!


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks Fluffy, you can see this beautiful hummer just a short drive from Quito. You need to come on down.


Native Gardener profile image

Native Gardener 5 years ago from Topanga Canyon, California

Thanks for sharing this beautiful hummingbird! I see now I have yet another reason to visit Ecuador.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Just one of many reasons Native Gardener. There are some extremely beautiful and interesting birds here. Thanks for the comment.


tsmog profile image

tsmog 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

Wow! This article is awesome and that species is amazing. I have several species here in the San Diego area of California that frequent my garden and feeders and they are truly friends. Now, I have a thirst to look into more species nationally and world wide. Thank you for firing up desire to learn more about these angels of flight. Thanks


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks for the comments Tsmog. They are a fascinating creature. Hope you enjoy your new interest.


vwriter profile image

vwriter 5 years ago from US

Great hub. I love hummingbirds. They are such interesting little birds. Thank you for sharing the information.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Vwriter. I appreciate your feedback.


Apostle Jack profile image

Apostle Jack 5 years ago from Atlanta Ga

I am an Artist as well and birds are some of my paintings along with other animals.Love your work.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Apostle Jack. Sometimes I use the photos that I have taken to draw new pictures. They are great subjects


lxdollarsxl 4 years ago

excellent read about the habits and habitat of this bird


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 4 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Ixdollarsxi, I appreciate the feedback.


anusujith profile image

anusujith 4 years ago from Nilambur, Kerala, India

a cute hub about a cute bird.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 4 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Anusujith. These hummers are fascinating.


sm 3 years ago

I love it and it rock

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