This large, colorful Middle American hummongbird is another of the hummers whose range extend just north of the United States border with Mexico. The species was know for many years as Rivoli’s Hummingbird, honoring a European nobleman, until the present name was assigned in the 1980s. Two subspecies are recognized, the range of the northern one extends south to northern Honduras. The larger southern race is resident in Costa Rica and extreme western Panama.
The striking male with irridescent purple crown and green gotget is difficult to mistake for any other hummingbird in North America. The much plainer female is darker than the similar-sized female Blue-throated Hummingbird (Lampornis clemenciae) and lacks the latters white eye-stripe (see Powers 1996 and Pyle 1997 for plumage details).
DISTRIBUTION. During the 1987-1992 field work for the TBBA project, volunteers found Magnificent Hummingbirds in two latilong blocks, 30104 (1 confirmed, 2 probable, 1 possible) and 31104 (2 probable). Thus this species definitely breeds in the Davis Mountains and very probably breeds in the Guadalupe Mountains, consistent with Lockwood and Freeman (2004) who describe the species as uncommon and local in the Davis Mountains and rare in the Guadalupes.
The species breeds from central Arizona, extreme southwest New Mexico and western Texas south through the highlands of Mexico and Central America to western Panama. Individuals breeding in the United States and northern Mexico move southward in winter (Howell and Webb 1995, Powers 1996, Corman 2005).
SEASONAL OCCURRENCE. Magnificent Hummingbirds have been reported in Texas from March 26 to October 12 (Oberholser 1974).
BREEDING HABITAT. Magnificent Hum- mingbirds in Texas probably breed between 1800 m (6000 ft) and 2100 m (7000 ft) in pine-fir-juniper-oak forests (Oberholser 1974). In Arizona about 75% of breeding records came from coniferous habitats containing ponderosa pine and the rest were in deciduous riparian or evergreen oak areas (Corman 2005).
The female generally builds the nest saddled on a horizontal branch 3-27 m (10-90 ft) above ground. The cup, similar to those of smaller hummingbirds but larger, is built of soft, fine plant materials and feathers, held together with spider silk and decorated with lichens. The outside diameter is 5.7 cm (2.3 in), inside diameter 2.9-3.8 cm (1.2-1.5 in), height 3.8-5.1 cm (1.5-2 in) and cup depth is 1.7-3.2 cm (0.6-1.3 in). The female lays 2 smooth, white eggs, possibly not on consecutive days (Harrison 1979, Powers 1996).
STATUS. Little information is available to quantify abundance in Texas, especially since access to many areas of the Guadalupe Mountains is difficult. In one banding study in Arizona, more Magnificents were captured than either Blue-throated or Black-chinned (Archilochus alexandri) hummingbirds (Powers 1996), suggesting that Magnificents are not rare in appropriate habitat.
Text by Robert C. Tweit (2006).
Corman, T. E. 2005. Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens). In Arizona breeding bird atlas. pp. 252-253 (T. E. Corman and C. Wise-Gervais, eds.), University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Harrison, H. H. 1979. A field guide to western birds’ nests. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Howell, S. N. G. and S. Webb. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, New York.
Lockwood, M. W. and B. Freeman. 2004. The TOS handbook of Texas birds. Texas A&M University Press, College Station.
Oberholser, H. C. 1974. The bird life of Texas. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Powers, D. R. 1996. Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens). In The birds of North America, No. 221 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Pyle, P. 1997. Identification guide to North American birds, part 1. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, CA.