The Yanacocha Reserve near Quito stands at 10,500 feet above sea level and boasts a spectacular views across a verdant volcanic landscape.
There were a number of new (to me) hummingbird species but the star of my show was a bird that I have long wanted to photograph: the Swordbill Hummingbird. I have caught glimpses of it before, I have spend a fruitless previous rainy day at Yanacocha looking for it, but I have never had this remarkable bird in my viewfinder.
The Swordbill has the longest bill of any species of hummingbird – over 5” in length. It has evolved to feed on the trumpet flowers such as the Brugmansia sanguinea (Red Angel’s Trumpet) – which has a bulb concealed at the very end of the tubular flower. To reach this feast the Swordbill thrusts not only its bill but its whole head inside the trumpet– quite a feat while flying blind to maintain position. This is a wonderful example of natural selection on the basis of a highly unusual characteristic – an absolutely enormous bill!