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Amazing Aerobatics of Puerto Rico's Green Mango

Bearing a name that is more likely to be associated with an unripe tropical fruit, the Green Mango (Anthracothorax viridis) is in fact a species of hummingbird found only on the main island and archipelago of Puerto Rico. With iridescent green feathers and blue and black tail, the Green Mango is a relatively large species among these tiny birds and has no clear distinguishing features to differentiate between male and female. While being considered fairly uncommon, it is listed with the IUCN as being of 'least concern' as its numbers have not declined significantly over three generations. Nevertheless, as with all the wildlife of Puerto Rico, the Green Mango is dependent on conservation of the island's natural resources for its continued survival.

The Green Mango is most often found in Puerto Rico's more mountainous regions, particularly in plantations, such as the coffee plantations which produce the premium brew the island is known for. Their beaks are perfectly designed to reach the nectar deep inside flowers, and can be seen hovering over the island’s colorful Heliconia flowers, with their wings a misty blur of activity as they sip the nectar.

Hummingbirds are fascinating little creatures with amazing aerobatic skills. They are able to dart forward, sideways, backwards and even upside-down, while their wings beat at between 50 and 80 beats per second, depending on the size and species of the bird. Research has revealed that a hummingbird is able to travel at speeds of between 30 to 60 miles per hour (again depending on size and species) and then abruptly stop and hover in one place. The hummingbird's unique anatomy gives it this amazing maneuverability. Accounting for between 25 to 30 percent of its bodyweight, the hummingbird's well-developed muscles are attached to its breastbone, while its wings are rigid from shoulder to wingtip, enabling the bird's wings to make powerful upward and downward strokes, giving it both lift and propulsion. This is different from other birds that only have power in the downward strokes of their wings. Moreover, the hummingbird's shoulder joint is able to rotate 180 degrees, enabling its wings to pivot backward and forward, similar to oars on a rowing boat. While other birds may have the ability to hover, hummingbirds are undisputed experts at this, and are the only birds able to rise vertically and fly backward, while changing direction in the blink of an eye.

So, when you are next exploring the nature reserves of Puerto Rico, be sure to look out for the Green Mango and spend some time watching this pretty little bird performing some amazing aerobatics.

 


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