Royal sunangel (Heliangelus regalis)
|Size||Length: 11 – 12 cm (2)|
|Weight||3.5 – 4.5 g (2)|
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
The royal sunangel is a small-bodied hummingbird, with an elongated, deeply-forked tail, and a straight black bill. Like all other members of the order Apodiformes, which includes hummingbirds and swifts, it possesses a unique wing structure which they beat in a figure-of-eight pattern, making them capable of intricate aerial manoeuvres (4). The male’s plumage is a deep, shimmering violet-blue, with a brighter iridescence on the forecrown. The female is dark green, with rich cinnamon underparts spotted with bronzy-green, and a broad, pale breast band. The iridescent, metallic blue tail is not as deeply forked as that of the male. Immature royal sunangels are similar in appearance to the female, except the throat is spotted grey rather than green, and the amount of blue in the plumage increases steadily with age (2) (5).
Occurs in northern Peru, in just a few locations in the regions of Amazonas, Cajamarca and San Martín (6).
The royal sunangel is most common in ‘elfin scrub’, a habitat consisting of grassland with mossy, stunted forest, lichen-covered bushes, succulents and bracken-ferns. This is typically bordering savannah-like areas and taller, humid elfin forest, and is generally located on ridge tops, where regular fire disturbance has prevented the development of taller forest. It has also been found inhabiting the sides of steep, wooded ravines, and is most abundant above an elevation of 1,500 meters (2) (5) (7).
The royal sunangel feeds on nectar and small insects, but has shown a distinct preference for the nectar from one low shrub, Brachyotum quinquenerve. The abundant flowers have deep purple petals which hang down forming a tube, forcing the hummingbird to hover directly underneath, or perch on a stem below the flower and point its bill straight up to draw up the nectar with its long tongue (4) (5). The royal sunangel is a territorial bird that defends an area of about 50 meters. When not foraging, males often return to the same perch to sit quietly within the territory, and male on male chases are common, accompanied with high-pitched notes (5). Breeding in the royal sunangel is thought to occur between July and September, when a clutch of two eggs is incubated by the female (2).
The restricted range of the royal sunangel, and its rather unusual habitat, make this species particularly sensitive to any habitat loss or degradation occurring in the region. The habitat which it occupies is surrounded by cultivation, and deforestation is increasing, with much forest being cleared for marijuana and coffee plantations (2) (8).
The royal sunangel is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any trade in this species should be carefully controlled. There are no other specific conservation measures in place for the royal sunangel, but it has been recommended that surveys are undertaken to locate any undiscovered populations, and reserves should be set up to protect critical areas of its habitat (6).
For further information on the royal sunangel see:
For further information on hummingbird conservation see:
The Hummingbird Society:
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- Elfin forest: type of tropical high altitude forest, growing on exposed sites in which the trees are dwarfed or gnarled.
- Foraging: the act of searching for food.
IUCN Red List (January, 2007)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1999) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 5: Barn-Owls to Hummingbirds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
CITES (January, 2007)
- Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
- Fitzpatrick, J.W., Willard, D.E. and Terborgh, J.W. (1979) A new species of hummingbird from Peru. The Wilson Bulletin, 91: 177 - 186.
Birdlife International (June, 2007)
- Davis, T.J. (1986) Distribution and Natural History of Some Birds from the Departments of San Martin and Amazonas, Northern Peru. The Condor, 88: 50 - 56.
Birdlife International (June, 2007)