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5 Fascinating Facts About the Dazzling Bahama Woodstar Hummingbird

The tiny but dazzling Bahama Woodstar or Nesophlox evelynae is a species of hummingbird that has captured the hearts of bird enthusiasts across the globe. Found in the archipelago of the Bahamas, this fascinating little bird boasts of colorful feathers and swift flight,making it a delight to watch.

In this article, we’ll explore the identification, plumages, and molts of the Bahama Woodstar, as well as how to differentiate it from similar species. Identification:

Field Identification: The Bahama Woodstar is the only hummingbird species that is endemic to the Bahamas.

With a body length of approximately 2.5 inches or 6.5 cm, and a weight of 2.5 g, the Bahama Woodstar is rather small in size. It has dark green upperparts and a white underbelly, with a reddish-purple gorget (throat), that shimmers in sunlight.

Both males and females have a pointed bill, but only males have a bright blue-green crown while females have a green cap. Similar Species: The Bahama Woodstar bird bear resemblance to two other hummingbirds, the Cuban Emerald and Blue-chinned Sapphire.

The Cuban Emerald is larger and has a relatively longer bill compared to the Bahama Woodstar, although they both have similar green plumage. On the other hand, the Blue-chinned Sapphire has a bluish-purple gorget rather than the reddish-purple found in the Bahama Woodstar.

Plumages:

Most hummingbird species undergo two plumage changes in their lifetime. The juvenile plumage that occurs after hatching and the adult plumage that comes in after molting.

For the Bahama Woodstar, the juvenile plumage is rather unremarkable as it is beige-brown dorsally and whitish ventrally. However, the adult plumage is stunning with an emerald green back and crown, white underparts, and iridescent purple throat patch.

The feet and legs are a pinkish flesh color while the bill is black, thin, and moderately curved. Molts:

The Bahama Woodstar undergoes bodily molts at least once every year, that is the replacement of feathers.

Molts take place in all birds that have feathers to maintain the integrity of the wing feathers which are vital for flight. Typically, molting among hummingbirds begins with the replacement of their feathers, which is usually followed by the growth of new ones in a continuous cycle.

Molting can occur throughout the year, with birds in different stages of the molt. The Bahama Woodstar primarily molts its feathers in the autumn and spring seasons, during the seasons where flowers are blooming and abundant.

In conclusion, the Bahama Woodstar hummingbird species is a small but striking bird that is visually captivates bird enthusiasts. To identify this bird, one needs to look at the coloration of the upper and lower parts of the body, the bill, and throat feathers.

Additionally, molting in this species is essential as it contributes to the overall physiological integrity of the body. Therefore, keeping a keen eye out on this hummingbirds appearance will go a long way gaining knowledge on its identification, plumages, and molts.

The history of systematics of wildlife and biodiversity gives a comprehensive understanding of the evolution, classification, distribution and variation of biodiversity over time. The Bahama Woodstar, a bird species native to the Bahamas, underwent many changes in its distribution, geographic variation, subspecies and relatedness to other hummingbird species, providing an exciting area of study for ornithologists and naturalists alike.

Systematics history:

The Bahama Woodstar belongs to the family Trochilidae, with the scientific name Nesophlox evelynae. The first scientific description of this species was published by Mc Gregor in 1901, and it was named under the genus Philodice, later revised to the genus Nesophlox by the American Ornithologists Union in 1990.

Historically, the classification of the species has been studied through the use of morphological, genetic and phylogenetic traits that denote its unique taxon and relationship patterns with other hummingbird species of the Caribbean. Geographic Variation:

Geographic variation is an essential component of understanding the distribution and evolution of a species.

The Bahama Woodstar is only found in the Bahamas, situated 50 miles southeast of Florida and 400 miles east of Cuba in the Western Hemisphere. Its distribution is broadly divided into two regions, the northern and southern areas, separated by the Bahama banks.

The species inhabits several islands of the archipelago, with its highest concentration on the Grand Bahama and Abaco islands in the northern region and Andros and Inagua in the southern region. Subspecies:

The distribution of the Bahama Woodstar hummingbird species is divided into several subspecies based on morphological and geographic variation.

The six recognized subspecies: Nesophlox evelynae evelynae (Andros Island); Nesophlox evelynae aelutiae (North Abaco Island); Nesophlox evelynae maynardi (Great Inagua Island); Nesophlox evelynae minimus (Bimini Island group, Cat Island and Rum Cay); Nesophlox evelynae eximius (San Salvador Island); Nesophlox evelynae lucayana (Grand Bahama Island). The subspecies classifications help provide insight on the range and ancestry of the Bahama Woodstar hummingbird populations.

Related Species:

The Bahama Woodstar is closely related to other Caribbean hummingbird species, including the Cuban Emerald (Chlorostilbon ricordii), the Emerald-chinned Hummingbird (Abeillia abeillei), and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). These taxa share many features, such as their small size, iridescence, and agile flight abilities.

Nevertheless, differences in geographic distribution, color of feathers, foraging behavior, and size, all combine to distinguish them as distinct species. Historical Changes to Distribution:

The Bahama Woodstar’s history of distribution underwent significant changes stemming from natural phenomena, such as climate and sea-level fluctuation, and human intervention in the form of migration and habitat loss.

The species’ presence in the Bahamas dates back before the last Ice Age and may have survived mass extinction events in the region. However, the emergence of humans as dominant biological agents in the Caribbean influenced the distribution of the species.

European colonialism in the 16th and 17th centuries, the introduction of invasive plant species from colonizers, and overexploitation of natural resources has impacted and altered Bahama Woodstar habitats. The species population on San Salvador Island, which previously had long been recognized as a distinct subspecies, became extinct in the 1980s and highlights the impact of humans on conservation efforts for the species across the archipelago.

In conclusion, the Bahama Woodstar hummingbird species is one of the most researched avian species in the Caribbean, which has provided an excellent insight into the evolution, distribution, and relationships between other hummingbird species. Geographic variations in their distribution and recognized subspecies provide a foundation for conservation and management practices for these populations.

The documented impacts of human activity, including deforestation, habitat modification, and exploitation, have elevated the need for adaptive conservation measures to ensure the species’ survival. As we continue to learn about the Bahama Woodstar through an ever-increasing understanding of its evolution and classification, we can apply measures to ensure its status as a unique and integral part of the diversity of the Caribbean fauna.

Habitat:

The Bahama Woodstar, a small species of hummingbird, is found exclusively in the Bahamian Archipelago. Its habitat is primarily in the arid lowland areas with sparse vegetation, where the species has adapted to survive in a climate with limited biodiversity.

The Bahama Woodstar needs to feed on nectar or small insects regularly to maintain its energy levels, making access to flowering plants a critical aspect of its habitat. The species is adaptable and can frequent a range of habitats, including gardens, parks, scrublands, and mangroves, provided that they have access to nectar sources, such as blooming plants.

Mangroves are particularly crucial for the Bahama Woodstar, providing both shelter and flower resources throughout the year. Movements and Migration:

The Bahama Woodstar species is known for having a limited distribution range within the Bahamas, and they do not have the capacity for extensive movements such as migratory birds.

However, during severe weather phenomena such as hurricanes, strong winds, and high tides, the Bahama Woodstar may be displaced to new locations during their movements to find food and adequate shelter. The species often moves through its habitat in a distinctive hovering pattern, allowing it to remain at and inspect nectar-rich flowers in place, rather than large flights to distant sources.

While the Bahama Woodstar is not known to migrate over long distances, there has been some speculation into short-distance movements and its possible impacts on the population dynamics of the species. Some researchers have suggested that the Bahama Woodstar may experience seasonal movements between adjacent islands in search of better nectar sources and breeding habitats.

This phenomenon appears to be closely associated with local weather conditions, mainly rainfall patterns and the periodic flowering of different plant species. Short-distance movements are likely facilitated by the species’ agile flight capabilities, which allow it to travel between habitats with ease.

Additionally, the Bahama Woodstar is known to be site-faithful, meaning that it maintains a single territory for extended periods. Some studies have shown that the species continues to occupy the same range year-round, suggesting that they are resident throughout their range.

This site-fidelity has important implications for conservation practices as it implies that the removal of individual birds or habitat degradation could diminish the population of the species. In conclusion, the Bahama Woodstar hummingbird species has established a narrow habitat range within the Bahamian Archipelago due to limited food resources and other challenging environmental factors.

Despite these limitations, the species can adapt to a wide range of habitats on a seasonal or site-faithful basis. Short-distance movements within the species’ range are possible, particularly when breeding habitats and nectar sources are scarce.

Conservation practices must recognize the Bahama Woodstar’s specificity of habitat requirements to ensure the availability of the necessary resources for its survival. Safeguarding the mangrove habitats across the archipelago is particularly crucial for the Bahama Woodstar’s continued survival, as these habitats provide year-round shelter and food resources.

Additionally, it is fundamental to avoid removing individuals from site-faithful areas or degrading habitat conditions, which could cause population decline. Diet and Foraging:

The Bahama Woodstar is a nectar-feeding bird species with a diet that consists of both nectar from plants and small insects, particularly spiders and flies.

Hummingbirds are unique foragers that require a high metabolism to maintain their energy levels, which is critical for their survival as they spend much of their energy hovering. The Bahama Woodstar’s special thin and long bills, combined with the length of the tongue mechanism, permits the efficient extraction of nectar from various flower shapes in its habitats.

Additionally, with their exceptional hovering abilities and agile flight capabilities, the species can catch small prey items and forage for nectar simultaneously. This versatile feeding strategy allows the Bahama Woodstar to maintain its energy levels at all times, especially in the harsh, low nectar environment of the Bahamian Archipelago.

Diet:

The Bahama Woodstars diet typically consists of a plant-based component, either in its purest nectar form or mixed with various amounts of invertebrates, such as spiders and insects. Nectar is a critical dietary component as it provides the necessary carbohydrates required for flight and temperature regulation.

The species often favors flowers with a high sugar concentration, such as the cactus plant species, which allow for efficient extraction of nectar. The Bahama Woodstar is particularly fond of the African Tulip Tree, which typically produces a high volume of nectar-rich flowers with red and orange colors, highly attractive to the species.

The small insects, housed inside the flowers where the birds feed, are an additional source of protein to supplement the bird’s diet. Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

Hummingbirds have physiologies that are uniquely adapted to handling the metabolic demands of foraging.

To maintain the high metabolism, muscular endurance, and rapid energy delivery required for hovering, hummingbirds have metabolisms that can achieve rates estimated as over 20 times their resting metabolic rate (RMR). The Bahama Woodstar is capable of maintaining the high body temperature needed to sustain such a high metabolic rate through several adaptations that ensure higher temperature levels during flights.

These adaptations include elevated thermoregulatory systems through increases in thermogenesis (shivering) and the maintenance of a higher body temperature, which is essential for optimal foraging, reproduction, and evasion of predators. Sounds and Vocal Behavior:

Hummingbirds are known for producing a range of distinctive sounds, including sharp chips, squeaks, and trills, typically made with the wing feathers.

These sounds are mainly for communication purposes between individuals in in various social interactions such as during territorial behaviors, and mating calls. The Bahama Woodstar species uses a range of vocalizations, including a high-pitched trill with extended notes, distinct from the short, sharp call noted in other hummingbird species such as the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Vocalization:

The Bahama Woodstar vocalization is a familiar sound in its habitat, with males generally more vocal than females. The primary functions of these calls are for social communication, particularly in signaling territorial boundaries and locating mates.

While these calls are not as elaborate as in some other species, such as the Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna), or the Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri), they are still distinct with soft, high-pitched notes, alternating between a rapid series of chirps and trills. These vocalizations help establish and maintain breeding territories and ensure reproductive success throughout their range.

In conclusion, the Bahama Woodstar hummingbird species is a nectar-loving bird with specialized feeding strategies that allow it to extract nectar efficiently from various flower species. Their extra high metabolic rates and body temperature regulation systems are uniquely and exceptionally adapted to support the energetic demands of foraging and aerial maneuvers that hummingbirds require.

Vocalizations in this species are limited but crucial for communication purposes and maintaining critical social bonds between individuals. Future research into the species feeding strategies, metabolism, and vocal behavior could provide valuable information on the relationship between morphology, physiology, and behavior aspects to our understanding of these a unique species across their range.

Behavior:

Locomotion: The Bahama Woodstar has a specialized skeletal structure and musculature that allows for agile flight and hovering, which are necessary for efficient foraging. They have highly maneuverable wings that are capable of rapid beats of up to 80 times per second.

Additionally, the species has the ability to fly backwards and upside down due to muscular adaptations and flexible wing joints that allow for versatile movements. Self-Maintenance: The Bahama Woodstar has several unique behaviors that are fundamental to its health and survival.

The species regularly preens its feathers by using its bill to clean, oil, and rearrange its feathers regularly. It also sunbathes to maintain its essential body temperature, which provides information critical to the growth and maintenance of feathers.

Sunbathing helps maintain feather function in both flight and insulation. Agonistic Behavior: Agonistic behavior plays a crucial role in individual space and resource management for the species.

When defending their territories, males actively challenge intruders by making aggressive displays such as hovering directly in front of potential rivals while jerking the wings at high frequencies. Such displays are intended to communicate a forceful message of territorial ownership, communicated mostly by positioning and displaying extended gorgets during such encounters.

Sexual Behavior: During breeding season, males engage in elaborate courtship displays, ranging from hovering in front of females to attacking other birds on the borders of their breeding territories. The display of the gorget, an iridescent patch on their throat, is a key feature of the species, typically employed by males to attract females’s attention.

Males will engage in further elaborate displays, including flying directly upward and then diving rapidly, spreading and bringing the feathers to bathe they front of females during the peak of courtship. Breeding:

The breeding season for the Bahama Woodstar species extends from late winter to early summer, typically beginning in February and ending in June in most areas.

Both males and females establish territories, typically between 0.1 to 0.3 hectares in size, which may be occupied for several years. Females construct the nests by weaving grasses and other plant materials into a compact bowl-like shape and lining it with different soft materials.

After courtship and breeding, the females lay two small white eggs, usually attached by spider webs to anchoring plants, where they are incubated for 11-13 days. The chicks hatch with altricial feathers (unfledged feathers) and are blind, relying on their parents for food until they are old enough to fly, which typically occurs four weeks after fledging.

Demography and Populations:

The Bahama Woodstar is a common species in the Bahamas, but its population’s exact status is uncertain. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the species as Least Concern, primarily due to its relatively wide range within the Baham

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