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Great Thrush (Turdus fuscater)

The Great Thrush is virtually indistinguishable from the Glossy-black Thrush, as they both are black in coloration with orange bill and legs and a yellow eye ring. Both species have a large plump body, much larger than Costa Rica’s national bird, the Clay-colored Thrush. They are separated by altitude, with the Great Thrush inhabiting lower grounds below the Subparamo region. They hop on the ground in search of large insects to feed on, but when startled they take to the trees and hide within the branches.

Great Sapphirewing (Pterophanes cyanopterus)

The Great Sapphirewing is a very large hummingbird with glittering colors. We saw both the male and female at Termales del Ruiz, which is above the 3,000 meters over sea level mark. At this altitude, oxygen content is low, meaning that the birds do not spend as much time on the flight and frequently perch to conserve energy, specially with such a large size. Their wing beat is relatively slow as well. The male on this species has a green body, but the chest glows with blue tonalities as light changes, an iridescence phenomenon. The wing is metallic blue, both on the upper and the lower side, which easily explains its common name. The female is very similar, however the chest, belly and throat are cinnamon in coloration. Both have a very long and narrow bill, and a white postocular spot.

Golden-breasted Puffleg (Eriocnemis mosquera)

The Golden-breasted Puffleg is so called due to two characteristics: Its breast glow in golden and coppery due to an iridescence effect, and its feet are covered in white feathers with a fluffy look. The rest of the body is metallic green, but with the correct light it can show off some variation in the color. A white postocular spot and long, slim bill finishes the look. We found this bird at Termales del Ruiz, which is about 3,200 meters above sea level. At this elevation, oxygen content has dropped a lot, so hummingbirds don’t stay airborne as much and are found perching quite frequently.

Glossy-black Thrush (Turdus serranus)

The Glossy-black Thrush is virtually indistinguishable from the Great Thrush, as they both are black in coloration with orange bill and legs and a yellow eye ring. Both species have a large plump body, much larger than Costa Rica’s national bird, the Clay-colored Thrush. They are separated by altitude, with the Glossy-black inhabiting higher grounds in Subparamo and Paramo regions. They hop on the ground in search of large insects to feed on, but when startled they take to the trees and hide within the branches.

Buffy Helmetcrest (Oxypogon stuebelii)

The Buffy Helmetcrest is a hummingbird species that’s native to the Nevado del Ruiz Paramo and is found on a really limited range, being endemic to Colombia. Since they live at altitudes above 4,000 meters above sea level, where oxygen content is low and temperatures are close to 0 degrees Celsius, they can’t flap their wings as fast as other hummers, and they prefer to perch on branches while they drink a flower’s nectar, which helps them conserve previous energy. There are four species of Oxypogon, each one inhabiting the paramo region of a different peak. Frailejones flowers are among the common energy sources for them.

Brown Violetear (Colibri delphinae)

The Brown Violetear is a medium-sized hummingbird which has a violet ear patch, not surprising given its name. The body is mostly brown in coloration, with darker wing and tail feathers. The feathers covering its vent are whitish, as well as some of the throat feathers surrounding a small colorful patch in the center. It possesses a patch of green to blue iridescent feathers in the throat, something the Lesser Violetear does not possess. The black bill is relatively short and straight, which it uses to sometimes catch small insects on the flight. It is found in mid to high altitudes, particularly in humid areas where Porter Weed flowers are plentiful. Their small size and light weight let them perch in delicate branches without breaking them.

Green Thorntail (Discosura conversii)

The Green Thorntail has a tail with a unique shape, where the feathers are disjoint and look like an X. While generally the body of the male is glittering green, its head looks grayish unless seen from the perfect angle. In low light, the head may take on dark purple tones. Both male and female show a white band on the back. The female also has white on the cheeks and belly, interspersed by black markings which join in a stripe running through the center of the belly. These are very small hummingbirds with a flight pattern very much like a bee, being smooth and slow, instead of the very fast movements that larger hummingbirds display.

White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora)

The White-necked Jacobin is a pretty big hummingbird, that likes to move pretty fast around feeders and flowers, making it difficult to follow for in-flight pictures. Its color pattern is unmistakable among Costa Rica hummingbirds and glows in good light. The belly is white, while the head is metallic blue and the rest of the body is green; if seen from behind, the white patch on the neck can be spotted. They are territorial and won’t be afraid of putting a fight with other hummingbirds that approach the feeder they are visiting. The female is not nearly as colorful, but it is beautiful as well.

Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus gracilirostris)

This small bird inhabits the highlands in Costa Rica. Its plumage is drab like most of the birds in its family, but its song is melodious, flute-like with a metallic quality. The belly and face are gray, with the upperparts being brown. While this colors are very similar to other birds in its family, it is identified by the black bill and the brown collar around the throat that separates the face from the belly. It perches in the understory of oak forest and can be found also hoping on the ground or through trails, in places where light is scarce. With enough patience, they will perch at eye level and remain motionless long enough for a good picture.

Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher (Ptilogonys caudatus)

The Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher is an elegant bird that can be found in the highlands in Costa Rica. It’s long black tail contrasts with the gray and yellow body, ending with a yellow crest that is normally seen protruding from the head. The male is more colorful than the female, but overall they look similar and might be indistinguishable on bad lighting. Along the Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, this species is part of a four species family around the world, with only the Black-and-yellow and the Long-tailed being present in Costa Rica, endemic to our country and western Panama.