Horned Sungem – Amazing South American Hummingbird

Horned Sungem is a beautiful remarkable hummingbird that is mostly found in South America. It is well worthy of such an evocative name and only the males have the iridescent horns. The horned Sungem or Heliactin bilophus is the only species, of the genus Heliactin.

The expert’s name bilophus is sometimes considered a nomen oblitum. Which, if accepted results in Heliactin cornutus being the correct name for this species. A wing-beat is one complete up and down movement, which means the horned Sungem moves its wing muscles at a rate of more than 10,000 TPM (Times Per Minute).

It selects fairly dry open or semi-open habitats, like savanna and Cerrado. This bird normally avoids dense humid forests. The Horned Sungem population trend appears to be growing. Hence, the species do not reach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion and for some reason, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. The global population size has not been quantified, but this species is described as “uncommon”.

The females are mainly green above with clean white underparts and long central rectrices. However, male birds are spectacularly adorned with a dark blue crown, black throat and upper breast, and little red, blue, and gold “horns”, as well as also possessing elongated central tail feathers.

In terms of its spreading, the species is found really locally north of the Amazon. Also in southern Suriname, as well as in the savannas of Amapa, in far northeast Brazil, therefore much more incessantly across the Brazilian interior to eastern Bolivia.

It favors native Cerrado vegetation and is found to be at least 1000 m in elevation. Like numerous hummingbirds, the Horned Sungem appears to make local movements. So, at least in parts of its range, in response to flowering events, though somewhere else the species populations are seemingly more sedentary.