Long-billed Starthroat (Heliomaster longirostris)

The Heliomaster genus contains four species, two of which occur in Costa Rica, including the Long-billed Starthroat that can be spotted in the Caribbean and northern lowlands, as well as in the south Pacific. It also includes the Plain-capped Starthroat, which is mostly seen in the north Pacific, central valley and some valleys in the south Pacific. Both Starthroats have longer than average bills which are straight, although both species have similar bills. The main difference between the Long-billed and Plain-capped is that the former displays a colorful blue-green forecrown, while the latter lacks that crown. To aid in identification, it can be noted that the Long-billed has a postocular spot, while the Plain-capped has a postocular strip. Other than those two specific traits, the two species are very similar, with olive upperparts and gray to white underparts, and a magenta throat that is iridescent. The tips of the tail feathers are white, which can be seen the most dramatically during flight.

Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, (Eupherusa eximia)

Stripe-tailed Hummingbirds are distinguished from other hummingbirds by its rufous wing patch, although that characteristic is shared with the Blue-tailed (rare in Costa Rica) and Black-bellied Hummingbirds. It has a white vent and tail underside, along with the outer two feathers of the tail being white on the upperside. The male shows a dark blue patch on the throat which continues until the chest. During flight, the wings look almost entirely rufous, with only a lining of green feathers on the shoulders. The female has a white throat and chest. Both sexes resemble the Coppery-headed Emerald, although the latter is smaller.

Purple-throated Mountain-gem (Lampornis calolaemus)

The Purple-throated Mountain-gem is a striking hummingbird, where the male has a brilliant, iridescent throat the turns purple. The crown also changes color, from dark purple to metallic blue, all due to the angle of light that is hitting it. The upperparts are mainly green, although the belly is gray and the chest has a broad metallic green band as well. The female is similar but has a cinnamon belly, chest and throat, which does make it look very contrasty and eye catching. Both sexes have a white postocular line that reaches down and back almost to the neck. They are mostly seen in mid elevation cloud forests. The iridescence in hummingbird means that there is something different about each picture, even of the same individual.

Coppery-headed Emerald (Elvira cupreiceps)

The Coppery-headed Emerald is one of the few species of birds that are true endemics of Costa Rica, meaning only found in this country. The male is mostly green, with the copper hues on the head that can only be seen in the appropriate light and angle. The female has grey underparts and lacks the copper colors on the head. Both have a black downcurved bill, which help with identification versus similar species like the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, with which it shares the brownish-red rump. They are one of the tiniest species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica. They are seen in the mid to high elevations, in places where there is high humidity, but specially in the Cinchona and Vara Blanca zone.

Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica)

The Crowned Woodnymph is a medium sized hummingbird with a violet belly and glittering green throat, along with different shades of blue and green on the back. The female has white underparts and throat instead, with golden patches along the neck and head; the rest of the body is green like the male. They are mid sized among Costa Rican hummingbirds and might resemble a little bit the Violet-bellied Hummingbird that is found in Colombia. They inhabit low tropical rain forest locations like Braulio Carrillo and Bosque Eterno de los Niños, where they feed from the nectar of a variety of flowers, including Porter Weed.

Green-crowned Brilliant (Heliodoxa jacula)

The Green-crowned Brilliant is a relatively large hummingbird of the Heliodoxa family, which contains nine species, but the jacula is the only species to inhabit Costa Rica. It has a weird face, resulting from the elongated form towards the long and thin bill. The male is mostly green with glittering metallic-green crown as the name suggests, which becomes visible only with some angles due to the iridescence phenomenon that the bird displays; it also has a small purple patch on the throat. The female is similar, but has a white belly with scaling pattern in the throat and the flanks.

Violet-bellied Hummingbird (Damophila julie)

The Violet-bellied Hummingbird is another of the cute hummingbirds we saw in Colombia. Its name is pretty descriptive, since the belly is a deep iridescent purple tone that looks metallic on the right light; on the shadow it looks blue instead. The throat and face also glow in light green sometimes, other times it looks dark green along with the back of the head. It has a long and thin black bill that’s used like most hummingbird to extract nectar from the deep cavities of flowers in Colombia. I saw this individual while walking down from Doña Dora’s restaurant. It was doing its early morning stretching routine.

Steely-vented Hummingbird (Amazilia saucerrottei)

The Steely-vented Hummingbird belongs to the Amazilia genus, which contains a lot of similar hummingbird species like the Rufous-tailed and the Andean Emerald. They are all very similar in terms of body shape and size, but differ in their coloration and some of them in their habitat and behavior. It has a metallic green body with blue wings and tail, and shows yellow to magenta feathers on the rump. Their bill is thin and straight, and it has white feathers covering its legs. Like the Rufous-tailed, it is very aggressive and territorial.

Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii)

The Long-tailed Sylph is member of a genus with long tails, with the Violet-tailed Sylph being the other species that can be readily found in Colombia. The Long-tailed is overall very green, with a glittering emerald patch on the front of the head. The wings are very long and extend far beyond the base of the tail. However its most definitive feature is its long tail, which can measure up to 12 centimeters in length and account for around two thirds of the overall length of the bird; this is a huge burden for the bird as it flies around from flower to flower in search of nectar. The female has a fairly short tail instead, a characteristic known as dymorphism, which is very common in bird species.

Buff-tailed Coronet (Boissonneaua flavescens)

The Buff-tailed Coronet is among the most common hummingbirds in the areas of Colombia we visited. Its body color is green in general, with a scaled pattern on the belly, although the back can look reddish under the right light. The wings are brown and are long enough to cover the tail when folded down and perched. The white postocular spot is a defining feature, along with the buffy shoulders and white feathers that cover their feet, similar to the Booted Racket-tail. The bill is short and straight, entirely black. They like to perch for a few minutes in small branches, and when their feel their personal space is threatened by other individuals, they may put up a fight on the wing. Sometimes they perched alone, peacefully resting before flying again to drink more nectar, both from nearby flowers and from the feeders. It may not be the flashiest in terms of colors and anatomy, but it sure is beautiful to watch. In Rio Blanco Natural Reserve where we first saw them, they swarm in big numbers around the feeders, fighting each other and with other species.