Bahama Woodstar Hummingbirds (Calliphlox evelynae): Florida Vagrants, Lucayan Archipelago Natives

by DerdriuMarriner

Bahama woodstar hummingbirds are Caribbean natives of Bahama, Caicos, and Turks Islands. They feed upon flowers, insects, and spiders. Severe weather may carry them into Florida.

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas claims 700+ cays, islands, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of Florida, northeast of Cuba, and northwest of Hispaniola.
• Geographers cluster the island country with the British Overseas Territory of Turks and Caicos into the Lucayan Archipelago.

Because of smaller size and watery isolation, the Lucayan islands do not necessarily support the same animals and plants as their Caribbean, North and South American neighbors do.
• For example, the Bahama woodstar hummingbird is endemic to Bahama, Caicos, and Turks islands.

But environmental conditions may turn woodstars into vagrants in Florida and -- possibly through Hurricane Sandy -- Pennsylvania.
• Potential hosts need to know that Bahama woodstars love arthropods, nectar, pollen, and sugar-water.

*****

Distribution map of Bahama Woodstar

Calliphlox evelynae map
Calliphlox evelynae map

 

Beauty, behavior, and biogeography assure viewers that a hummingbird is a Bahama woodstar. The Lucayan natives claim:

  • Adult head-and-body lengths of 3 – 4 inches (7.62 - 10.16 centimeters), weights of 0.09 – 0.20 ounces (2.55 – 5.67 grams), and wingspans of 3.94 – 5.12 inches (10 – 13 centimeters);
  • Band- or bar-patterned breasts;
  • Buff-olive under-sides;
  • Dark and orange-brown tails;
  • Dark eyes;
  • Decurved, grey, needle-like bills;
  • Green crowns, foreheads, napes, and upper-sides;
  • Grey legs;
  • Grey, pointed wings;
  • Solid-patterned backs, bellies, and tails;
  • Vocalizations of prítitidee, prítitidee, prítitidee;
  • White eye-rings.

Along with dark green juveniles, dull-colored, round-tailed females display grey-white throats. The more iridescent males exhibit:

  • Forked tails;
  • Purple gorgets during year-round breeding seasons;
  • White breast-bands.

Females and males may have pink-tinged foreheads.

 

Bahama woodstar (Calothorax evelinae): illustration by John Gould (September 14, 1804 – February 3, 1881

two males (left; lower right) with one female (top right)
John Gould, A monograph of the Trochilidae, or family of humming-birds, Supplement (1880)
John Gould, A monograph of the Trochilidae, or family of humming-birds, Supplement (1880)

 

Flying, hovering, humming, nectaring, nest-building, perching, pest-controlling, pollen-dispersing, seed-scattering, socializing, temperature-adjusting, and territorializing appear on the list of Bahama woodstar hummingbird behaviors. It befits them to:

  • Balance on clothes lines, exposed twigs, and telephone wires;
  • Drink from bird baths, sprinkler systems, and water fountains by catching falling drops while hovering or by drinking pour-overs while standing on rims;
  • Fly backward, forward, and upside-down;
  • Hover over a location by flapping wings 12 – 80 times per second;
  • Move sideways through the air;
  • Produce bee-like sounds simply by beating their wings.

Bahama woodstars consume:

  • Garden water;
  • Granulated sugar-water;
  • Insects;
  • Nectar;
  • Pollen;
  • Spiders.

They function as obligate pollinators and sowers by dispersing pollen and seeds while moving from flower to flower.

 

nectaring male Bahama woodstar

Dunmore Town, North Eleuthera, Bahamas
Dunmore Town, North Eleuthera, Bahamas

 

Temperature-control and territory-sweeps emerge as two unexpected accomplishments of diminutive, elusive Bahama woodstars. Both behaviors ensure individual survival and population sustainability within the serial territories demarcated, inhabited, and maintained by loose communities of Bahama woodstar single adults and parents. Like all other hummingbird species, Bahama woodstars find torpor an option when confronted with:

  • Dwindling resources;
  • Expanding populations;
  • Increasing competition;
  • Plummeting temperatures;
  • Severe weather.

They lower their metabolic rates to as much as one-fifteenth the normal by:

  • Dropping body temperatures;
  • Slowing heartbeats and respirations.

They manage the reverse and surface from their hideaways once events pass, resources revive, and temperatures rise. Maintaining torpor as a viable response to environmental stress may be one of the motivations for territory-sweeps.

 

Smallest hummingbird: Bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), under synonym of Calypta helenae ~ endemic to Cuba's main island and Isla de la Juventud:

illustration by Louis Victor Bevalet (1808 - )
E. Mulsant et Edouard Verreaux, Histoire Naturelle, Supplement (1874), Plate VII
E. Mulsant et Edouard Verreaux, Histoire Naturelle, Supplement (1874), Plate VII

 

Territory-sweeps defend nectaring, sheltering, and socializing sites. They demand unexpected aggression from reclusive Bahama woodstar hummingbirds. Hummingbirds find themselves holding the world’s smallest living bird title thanks to bee hummingbirds (Mellisuga helenae) of:

  • Cuba;
  • Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud (“Isle of Youth”).

They have as their largest members, giant hummingbirds (Patagona gigas), of:

  • Argentina;
  • Bolivia;
  • Chile;
  • Colombia;
  • Ecuador;
  • Peru.

The comparison in size is the following:

  • Maximum adult length of 8.47 inches (21.5 centimeters) and weight of 0.85 ounces (24 grams) for giant hummingbirds;
  • Minimum adult length of 1.97 inches (5 centimeters) and weight of 0.06 ounces (1.6 grams) for bee hummingbirds.

Bahama woodstars mature to twice a bee hummingbird’s size and one-third that of giant hummingbirds.

 

Largest hummingbird: Giant hummingbird (Patagona gigas)

Andean range, along western South American continent from Colombia southward to Chile
Andean range, along western South American continent from Colombia southward to Chile

 

Socialization among otherwise solitary Bahama woodstars assumes two forms:

  • Feeding within super-lush clusters of host plants;
  • Mating year-round, but with peak times in April.

Breeding often coincides with the end of heavy rains. Ample precipitation encourages lush flushes from flowering plants. Bahama woodstars gather together to catch insects and sip nectars. Shortly thereafter, females typically must:

  • Build -- in tree forks or on thin horizontal branches 2 – 12 feet (0.61 – 3.66 meters) above ground -- animal hair-lined cup-like nests -- 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) in diameter -- from bark bits, plant fibers, and spider webs;
  • Incubate 2 white eggs 15 – 18 days;
  • Regurgitate into offspring’s throats and stomachs;
  • Release offspring to independent lives 20 days after birth.

 

Loggerhead kingfisher (Tyrannus caudifasciatus): Ornithologist and avian artist John Gould (September 14, 1804 – February 3, 1881) noted "quarrelsome" disposition of solitary Bahama woodstar in successfully chasing away "fighter," as Loggerheads are known

Camagüey Province, Cuba
Camagüey Province, Cuba

 

Forests and woodlands historically accommodate Bahama woodstar life cycles and natural histories. But agro-industrialism activates expansions into:

  • Brushlands;

  • Scrublands;

  • Suburbs;

  • Undergrowth.

With two exceptions, Bahama woodstars sustainably adapt to expanding urban and shrinking wildland interfaces within the archipelago's uniform geography and meteology. Firstly, the nominate (“first-named”) subspecies, Calliphlox evelynae evelynae (“Evelyn's beautiful flame,” categorized by Jules Bourcier [February 20, 1797 – March 10, 1873] in 1847 and honoring John Evelyn [October 31, 1620 - February 27, 1706]), claims all Lucayan niches but Inagua's. The subspecies lyrura ("Evelyn's beautiful flame [with] lyre-shaped tail," classified by John Gould [September 14, 1804 – February 3, 1881] in 1869) exclusively inhabits Inagua. Secondly, both subspecies may become northerly vagrants during extreme weather.

 

Bahama woodstar subspecies, Lyre-shaped woodstar (Calliphlox evelynae lyrura), under synonym Doricha lyrura: illustration by John Gould (September 14, 1804 – February 3, 1881

two males (left) with one female (right)
John Gould, A monograph of the Trochilidae, or family of humming-birds, Supplement (1880)
John Gould, A monograph of the Trochilidae, or family of humming-birds, Supplement (1880)

Conclusion

Bahama woodstars are strong enough to:

  • Out-compete bumblebees (Bombus spp) and hawk moths (Sphingidae family);

  • Survive hurricanes.

Gales change them from endemics of the Lucayan archipelago into vagrants from Florida to Pennsylvania. Strays crave:

  • Arboreal shelters in palm-top (Sabal palmetto) and silk-cotton (Ceiba pentandra) trees;

  • Arthropods, nectar, and pollen of Jacaranda caerulea, sage (Lantana camara, Salvia coccinea), swamp-bush (Pavonia bahamensis), vervain (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis), and yellow elder (Tecoma stans);

  • 8 sunny hours on 310 days yearly;

  • 80 – 90°F (27 – 32°C) in summer and 70 – 80°F (21 – 27°C) in winter;

  • May to October rainfalls;

  • 65% relative humidity.

Approximating the above-mentioned configurations turn vagrancies into happy, healthy residencies.

Bucher's Mill Covered Bridge, dating from 1891 and placed on National Register of Historic Places in 1980, spans Cocalico Creek:

Long famous for covered bridge, Denver is now recognized among birders as site of 5-day visit, from April 20 - 24, 2013, by vagrant Bahama woodstar to Delmas and Ruth Witmer's feeder.
Denver, Lancaster County, southeastern Pennsylvania
Denver, Lancaster County, southeastern Pennsylvania

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

Bahama woodstar hummingbird sighting in Lancaster County, PA ~ 1st confirmed sighting of Bahama woodstar in U.S. since 1981 sighting in Florida

Published on YouTube on April 28, 2013 by LancasterOnline ~ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSl7lTkNbEU

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Female Bahama Woodstar (Calliphlox evelynae), covered in pollen

Nicholls Town, North Andros, Bahamas
Nicholls Town, North Andros, Bahamas
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Birds of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands (Caribbean Pocket Natural History) by Bruce Hallett

This is a comprehensive ornithological guide introducing both visitors and residents to the bird life of the Bahamas Archipelago and the neighbouring Turks and Caicos Islands.
Bahama woodstar-themed books

Hummingbird with flowers: black t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 09/13/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
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