Biologist and naturalist Lou Jost, who lives and works in Ecuador who regularly sends WEIT examples of his amazing photography and art has sent in some more photographs of hummingbirds, this time with a difference. Here’s what he wrote to Jerry.
In case people think that all hummingbirds are like the little buzzy things we have in the US, here is a hummingbird I saw last week that was almost as big as a swift or swallow. It’s called the Great Sapphirewing (Pterophanes cyanopterus). It is a very high elevation Ecuadorian and Colombian hummingbird, living around timberline at 3400-4000m. These huge hummingbirds have a more stately flight than the little guys, and they glide a lot. This is one of the largest hummingbirds in the world.
I watched it feeding on the turquoise-blue flowers of a giant terrestrial bromeliad (Puya sp.) whose wooly flower stalk was about 3-4m tall. This was a strange paramo (tropical high-elevation alpine grassland) studded all the way to the horizon with white-leaved Espeletia plants, in the aster family. These Espeletia are only found in very wet paramos and have a limited distribution in Ecuador. WEIT readers with good memories might recall reading about this genus of plants in relation to the recently-rediscovered Oxypogon hummingbird in Colombia. We were looking for Oxypogon hummingbirds here, but we didn’t find any, and none have ever been seen in Ecuador. But we have Espeletia in some spots, so maybe some day we’ll find one. (If one is ever found here, it will surely be a different species from the rediscovered one.)
In the shrubby transition zone just below this paramo, my group saw another iridescent blue bird, the Golden-crowned Tanager (Iridisornis rufivertex). This is one of my favorite birds for its subtle but beautiful colors, and I was really happy to finally get pictures of it. We lured it in with recordings of its own song and the songs of small owls (which little birds love to mob).