Sabrewings (Campylopterus) are large hummingbirds with a strong black bill. In males of most species, the shafts of the two outermost primaries are thickened, especially near the midpoint, and are recurved (forming the "sabre" for which these birds are named). Wedge-tailed Sabrewing is two toned, metallic green above and with pale gray underparts. The crown of the adult also is iridescent violet. There also is a distinct white spot just behind the eye. The tail is long and graduated, although it is shorter and less graduated in the female, and the outer rectrices of the female also have broad white tips.
Wedge-tailed Sabrewing can be distinguished from most other hummingbird species in its range by its large size, wedge shaped tail, and metallic blue crown. It is closely similar to Long-tailed Sabrewing (Campylopterus excellens) of southeastern Mexico, although these two species are not known to be sympatric. Long-tailed Sabrewing is even larger than Wedge-tailed, usually has paler (whiter) underparts, and the tail of male Long-tailed Sabrewing is longer than that of Wedge-tailed.
The following description is based on Ridgway (1911) and Howell and Webb (1995), and refers to nominate curvipennis; see also Geographic Variation. A large hummingbird, with a straight, stout, and broad bill. The shafts of the three outermost primaries (especially the outermost primary) are thickened basally, and, in the male, the middle portion of the shaft of the outermost primary is especially swollen :
Adult male: Crown dull metallic violet blue to greenish blue. Remaining upperparts metallic green or bronze green; uppertail coverts more bluish green. Rectrices dull metallic bluish green, shading into purplish black or blackish violet distally, this color covering most of the inner web (except on the central pair of rectrices); outer web of outer rectrix brownish gray in the middle, dusky basally. Remiges purplish dusky. Lores and underparts dull grayish white; auriculars similar, but darker. Postocular spot white.
Adult female: Similar to adult male, but two outer pairs of rectrices broadly tipped with dull gray or whitish; the outermost pair with a third (or more) of the outer web also brownish gray. Crown blue, but duller than in male.
Immature: Similar to adult, but crown duller and feathers tipped with buff. Underparts washed with pale cinnamon, and tips of outer rectrices washed with buff (Howell and Webb 1995).
Iris: very dark brown
Toes: dark brown
Bare parts color data from Ridgway (1911) and Smithe (1966).
Total length: 11.5-13.1 cm (Ridgway 1911), 12-13.5 cm (Howell and Webb 1995)
Linear measurements (from Ridgway 1911):
male, curvipennis (n = 9):
wing length, mean 66.8 mm (range 65-68.5 mm)
tail length, mean 52.5 mm (range 50-55.5 mm)
bill length, mean 27.3 mm (range 26-29.5 mm)
female, curvipennis (n = 4):
wing length, mean 63.6 mm (range 60-68 mm)
tail length, mean 47.4 mm (range 46-50 mm)
bill length, mean 26.6 mm (range 26-29.5 mm)
male, pampa (n = 10):
wing length, mean 68 mm (range 66-72 mm)
tail length, mean 53.2 mm (range 48-59.5 mm)
bill length, mean 24.5 mm (range 23-25.5 mm)
female, pampa (n = 3):
wing length, mean 62.8 mm (range 62-64.5 mm)
tail length, mean 44.3 mm (range 43.5-45 mm)
bill length, mean 24 mm (range 24-24 mm)
Mass: male, mean 6.6 g ± 0.46 (range 5.4-7.4 g, n = 15); female, mean 5.0 g ± 0.87 (range 4.3-6.7 g, n = 6). Mass data from Paynter (1955), Smithe and Paynter (1963), and Russell (1964); all data are for pampa.