Sword-billed hummingbird

Ensifera ensifera

The sword-billed hummingbird is a neotropical species of hummingbird from the Andean regions of South America. It is the sole member of the genus ''Ensifera'' and is characterized by its unusually long bill size; it is the only bird to have a beak longer than the length of its body. ''E. ensifera'' uses its bill to drink nectar from flowers with long corollas and has coevolved with the species ''Passiflora mixta''. While most hummingbirds preen using their bills, ''E. ensifera'' must use its feet to scratch and preen due to its bill being so long. This uncommon bird is also one of the largest hummingbird species.
Sword-billed hummingbird - beak highlight - IV, Jardin, Colombia  Antioquia,Colombia,Colombia Choco & Pacific region,Ensifera ensifera,Fall,Geotagged,Jardin,Jardín,South America,Sword-billed hummingbird,World

Appearance

Sword-billed hummingbirds are found perched on the mid to upper level branches of neotropical trees. Its length ranges 13 to 14 cm from the tail tip to the base of the bill, with males slightly larger on average than females. The bill can additionally be over 10 cm long. Individuals weigh between 10-15 g making it one of the largest species of hummingbirds. As is characteristic of hummingbirds, ''E. ensifera'' is able to fly backwards and hover in the air. It also exhibits higher than average wing-disc loading than other members of its family.

''E. ensifera'' displays sexual dimorphism where plumage varies between males and females. Males have a coppery bronze head, bronze green back, bright green underbelly, blackish green throat, and bronze green tail. Females have a similarly colored head and back, a white belly speckled with green, a more olive colored throat, and grayish white edging around the tail.
Sword-billed hummingbird - in flight approach II, Jardin, Colombia This is my personal favorite of the few in-flight shots I got of this amazing bird. Out of the other shots, this one has the best angle, it is completely cleared from the feeder itself, and does not suffer from hard flash effects. I also like the wing blur to indicate how fast it needs to beat its wing to keep in the air. 

There is no spectacular "making of" or special skill involved here. The approach is a tele to have some distance, a strong head flash that can cover this distance, auto focus (so no prefocus), and simply trying many many times. Out of a few hundred attempts, I failed almost all of them because auto focus was too late to lock on, the bird had already moved on. Prefocus does not seem fruitful to me as you cannot foresee the depth at which the bird will appear, so it will never really be fully in focus. 

The funny thing is, the camera I took this with (D850) was brand new and I was still learning it on this trip. Now I know it has continuous AF with 3D tracking, which would probably have a dramatically increased success rate. 

So looking back, I compensated pure ignorance with sheer persistence. Here's another one taken about 30 mins later:
https://www.jungledragon.com/image/60769/sword-billed_hummingbird_-_in_flight_approach_iii_jardin_colombia.html
https://www.jungledragon.com/image/60767/sword-billed_hummingbird_-_in_flight_approach_jardin_colombia.html
https://www.jungledragon.com/image/60770/sword-billed_hummingbird_-_in_flight_approach_iv_jardin_colombia.html Antioquia,Colombia,Colombia Choco & Pacific region,Ensifera ensifera,Fall,Geotagged,Jardin,Jardín,South America,Sword-billed hummingbird,World

Distribution

''Ensifera ensifera'' is a neotropical hummingbird found throughout tropical montane cloud forests of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. It is found at higher elevations of 1700 to 3300 meters, but the most common occurrences are between 2400 and 3100 meters. This is a preferred habitat due to the concentration of nectar producing flowers. It is a year-round resident of all 3 Andes ranges with no known migration patterns. While the species is considered to have stable numbers and a wide geographic range , it is unevenly distributed and hard to find, making the species difficult to research.
Sword-billed hummingbird - portrait, Jardin, Colombia  Antioquia,Colombia,Colombia Choco & Pacific region,Ensifera ensifera,Fall,Geotagged,Jardin,Jardín,South America,Sword-billed hummingbird,World

Status

The sword-billed hummingbird is considered of "Least Concern" by the IUCN. There is no sign of population decline or visible threats to the species. There is also no census on global number of individuals, because of the large range of occurrence and uncommon sightings. Climate change and deforestation are the two most probable threats to ''E. ensifera'' in the future since this can lead to habitat loss and decreased food sources, especially of ''Passiflora mixta.''
Sword-billed hummingbird, Jardin, Colombia I was happily flashing along a great feeder site near Jardin, when this stunning creature landed right in front of me. I was absolutely speechless. Henriette saw the twinkle in my eyes, and knew that we would be here for a while. I added insult to injury by saying that we won't leave before I have an in-flight shot of this one. 

This bird is the only known bird in the world where the beak is longer than its entire body. It is so long that it is forced to stand as it does on the photo, otherwise it would tip over. Its beak is so long, that unlike other birds, I cannot groom its feathers using its beak, it has to use its feet for that. Antioquia,Colombia,Colombia Choco & Pacific region,Ensifera ensifera,Fall,Geotagged,Jardin,Jardín,South America,Sword-billed hummingbird,World

Habitat

''Ensifera ensifera'' is a neotropical hummingbird found throughout tropical montane cloud forests of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. It is found at higher elevations of 1700 to 3300 meters, but the most common occurrences are between 2400 and 3100 meters. This is a preferred habitat due to the concentration of nectar producing flowers. It is a year-round resident of all 3 Andes ranges with no known migration patterns. While the species is considered to have stable numbers and a wide geographic range , it is unevenly distributed and hard to find, making the species difficult to research.
Sword-billed hummingbird - beak highlight, Jardin, Colombia This is a rotated crop of this glorious bird, just to highlight the length of its beak. It is impossible for this bird to actually stand as suggested in this shot, it has to tilt its head upwards all the time. Antioquia,Colombia,Colombia Choco & Pacific region,Ensifera ensifera,Fall,Geotagged,Jardin,Jardín,South America,Sword-billed hummingbird,World

Reproduction

Females and males are polygamous and may mate with several individuals to increase reproductive success. Eggs are laid usually between February and March and only the female stays to feed and guard the nest. Further research should be conducted on the number of broods and survival of offspring since little is known.
David and Goliath, Jardin, Colombia In case it wasn't obvious yet how extreme of a bird the Sword-billed hummingbird is, perhaps this size comparison can be the final verdict. To the left, the Tourmaline Sunangel. To the right...well you can fill in the blanks. Note how this Sword-billed hummingbird still has to make it extra clear by sticking out a significant part of its tongue. Antioquia,Colombia,Colombia Choco & Pacific region,Ensifera ensifera,Fall,Geotagged,Jardin,Jardín,South America,Sword-billed hummingbird,World

Food

The sword-billed hummingbird is a specialist species, feeding on the nectar of specific flowers. Its abnormally long beak allows it to feed from flowers with long corollas, especially from the family Passiflora and Datura, which includes the most heavily hummingbird-pollinated plant species. ''E. ensifera'' usually drinks while in flight and is a trap-line feeder, visiting the same flowers in a consistent, patterned sequence. This promotes flower pollination and outcrossing.

References:

Some text fragments are auto parsed from Wikipedia.

Status: Least concern
EX EW CR EN VU NT LC
Taxonomy
KingdomAnimalia
DivisionChordata
ClassAves
OrderApodiformes
FamilyTrochilidae
GenusEnsifera
SpeciesE. ensifera
Photographed in
Colombia