The Longuemare’s Sunangels (Heliangelus clarisse) are South American hummingbirds.
Distribution / Habitat
Longuemare’s Sunangels occur naturally in Colombia and Venezuela at elevations from 5,900 to about 10170 feet (1,800 – 3,100 meters).
They mostly inhabit forests, particularly edges and openings, as well as damp ravines with bushes and brushy pastures.
Subspecies and Ranges:
Longuemare’s Sunangels are closely related to, or by some authorities considered subspecies of, the Central American Amethyst-throated Hummingbird (Heliangelus amethysticollis). Since so little data is available on this taxon, the American Ornithologists’ Union’s South American Check-list Committee stated that any decision at this point would be arbitrary until more information has been gathered. However, subtle physical differences and disjunct ranges point to the fact that these should be treated as separate species.
- Heliangelus clarisse clarisse (Longuemare, 1841) – Nominate race
- Range: Eastern Andes of Colombia (Norte de Santander to Cundinamarca to the latitude of Bogotá) and adjacent western Venezuela, where they are relatively common.
- ID: Crown is green.
- Heliangelus clarisse spencei (Bourcier, 1847) – Originally considered a separate species
- Range: Andes of Mérida in northwestern Venezuela, where they are relatively rare.
- ID: Crown is velvety black.
- [Heliangelus clarisse violiceps (Phelps and Phelps, Jr., 1953 / 1959 ?)] – considered an invalid species by some authorities
- Range: Sierra de Perijá mountain range, along Colombia-Venezuela border, where they are relatively common.
- ID: Crown is purplish.
- [Heliangelus clarisse verdiscutatus] – Proposed race typically included within the nominate form clarisse; however, physically more similar to ssp. violiceps.
- Range: Páramo de Tamá – a mountain range in Táchira, Venezuela and southeastern Norte de Santander, Colombia.
- ID: Crown is velvety black.
- [Heliangelus clarisse dubius] – not currently recognized. Only known from two trade skins (origin unknown). Could be a melanistic (dark-plumaged) form (genetic anomaly).
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Longuemare’s Sunangels measure about 3.7 inches (9.4 cm) in length – from top of the head to the tip of the tail; and they average a weight of about 1.9 oz (5.3 grams). The bill is relatively short – measuring about 0.7 inches or 1.8 cm.
The plumage is overall dark.
The male is mostly dark green above, except for the crown ranges from dull-green in ssp. clarisse, purplish in ssp. violiceps to velvety black in race verdiscutus. He has a narrow, glossy blue “frontlet” above the bill and a bold white spot behind each eye. There is a glittering pinkish-purple throat patch with a white crescent below across the chest, with a green lower border. The rest of the underside is mostly glossy dark green mixed with grey. The undertail feathers are white except in ssp. spencei, where they are buff. The color of the long and broad tail ranges from bronze-green to blackish, with tiny white tips on the two outer feathers.
The female looks similar, except has a duller plumage and white feather bases may show in the throat.
Diet / Feeding
Longuemare’s Sunangels generally fly, perch and forage fairly low.
Along forest edges, they frequent rich patches of brightly colored, tubular-shaped flowers (often of the heath family, such as Psammisia).
In forests, they usually feed on flowering vines, epiphyte or shrub. Occasionally, they feed amongst mixed-species flocks.
They commonly feed by “trap-lining” – a feeding strategy that entails visiting a circuit of specific feeding plants or feeding sites.
They seek out, and aggressively protect, those areas containing flowers with high energy nectar. They use their long, extendible, straw-like tongues to retrieve the nectar while hovering with their tails cocked upward as they are licking at the nectar up to 13 times per second. Sometimes they may be seen hanging on the flower while feeding.
Many native and cultivated plants on whose flowers these birds feed heavily rely on them for pollination. The mostly tubular-shaped flowers actually exclude most bees and butterflies from feeding on them and, subsequently, from pollinating the plants.
They may also visit local hummingbird feeders for some sugar water, or drink out of bird baths or water fountains where they will either hover and sip water as it runs over the edge; or they will perch on the edge and drink – like all the other birds; however, they only remain still for a short moment.
They also take some small spiders and insects – important sources of protein particularly needed during the breeding season to ensure the proper development of their young. Insects are often caught in flight (hawking); snatched off leaves or branches, or are taken from spider webs. A nesting female can capture up to 2,000 insects a day.
Males establish feeding territories, where they aggressively chase away other males as well as large insects – such as bumblebees and hawk moths – that want to feed in their territory. They use aerial flights and intimidating displays to defend their territories.
Breeding / Nesting
Longuemare’s Sunangels have been reported in breeding condition from May to August. One case of hybridization has been recorded between a Longuemar’s and a Violet-fronted Brilliant Hummingbird (Heliodoxa leadbeateri).
Hummingbirds are solitary in all aspects of life other than breeding; and the male’s only involvement in the reproductive process is the actual mating with the female. They neither live nor migrate in flocks; and there is no pair bond for this species. Males court females by flying in a u-shaped pattern in front of them. He will separate from the female immediately after copulation. One male may mate with several females. In all likelihood, the female will also mate with several males. The males do not participate in choosing the nest location, building the nest or raising the chicks.
Only one nest has been found of this species, and it was a downy cup placed on a small root exposed by an overhanging roadbank.
Hummingbird females usually lay two to three white eggs, which they incubate alone, while males defend their territories and the flowers they feeds on.
The young are born blind, immobile and without any down. The female alone protects and feeds the chicks with regurgitated food (mostly partially-digested insects since nectar is an insufficient source of protein for the growing chicks). The female pushes the food down the chicks’ throats with her long bill directly into their stomachs.
As is the case with other hummingbird species, the chicks are brooded only the first week or two, and left alone even on cooler nights after about 12 days – probably due to the small nest size. The chicks leave the nest when they are about 20 days old.
Calls / Vocalizations / Sounds
They produce short, low-pitched, cricketlike trills that are very similar to the calls of the Orange-throated Sunangel; as well as “a single, upward-inflected tsit” that is repeated about every half-second.
Alternate (Global) Names
Chinese: ????? … Czech: kolib?ík Clarissin … Danish: Rosastrubet Solalf … French: Héliange clarisse, Héliange de Clarisse … German: Longuemare-Sonnennymphe … Norwegian: Santandersolengel … Polish: lordzik kolumbijski … Slovak: nymfárik ružovohrdlý … Spanish: Colibrí de Clarissa … Swedish: Rosastrupig solängel