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.
Not to be confused with the Oreotrochilus genus, the Rufous-gaped Hillstar is the only member of the Urochroa genus. It is rather large and streamlined, showing lots of different colors around the body. Its throat is blue to purple, ending on a dark orange malar strip which is very conspicuous and looks like a big smile. The belly is gray but shows blue-green feathers on the sides. The back and head of the body has olive, blue and green hues. A very small white postocular spot finishes the look.
The White-bellied Woodstar is among the smallest hummingbirds like most woodstars, however it is colorful and conspicuous. The body is mostly green, with a white collar that joins a white line coming out of the eye. The gorget is metallic purple due to iridescence, so it looks dark sometimes. The black bill is long, thin and just slightly curved down. The vent and belly also show white plumage. It flies in a typical bee fashion, with smooth movements instead of the rapid bursts that larger hummingbirds do.
The Violet-tailed Sylph is part of the Aglaiocercus genus, containing two more species, one of them being the Long-tailed Sylph which we also saw in Colombia during our trip. It has a long tail that glows in purple from the back. Other than that, the bird is mostly green, with flashes of orange on the belly and blue hues on the back. Their bill is relatively short when compared with other hummingbird species on its range. When the outer tail feathers are molted, individuals can be seen with shorter tails, like in the pictures below, since those feathers are precisely the ones that grow very long.
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.
The Velvet-purple Coronet was one of the most impressing hummingbirds we saw in Colombia. Its plumage is strongly iridescent all around the body, showing marvelous different hues with each movement. At one time it would look almost entirely black, then it flashed green and olive tones on the upper wing and shoulder, along with brown feather tips on the back and head. The head, throat and belly would look almost entirely black, until it turned the head towards me and flashed deep blue and purple colors, with turquoise flanks. White feathers cover the legs and the tail underside. So much change is almost unbelievable until you see it with your own eyes or camera lens, whichever is faster. To top if off, after perching it would hold the wings open for a brief moment, showing a chestnut coloration on the underside of the wings.
Metallura is a genus that contains nine species, all of them inhabiting different ranges in the Andes mountains. They are small and vary in coloration of the plumage. The Tyrian Metaltail is green overall, showing a white postocular spot, and white plumage on the belly and vent that gives it a scaled pattern on the underparts. The gorget is metallic green, however it is not seen from every angle due to iridescence. We saw one individual in Rio Blanco Natural Reserve, perched on a small ornamental plant, most probably resting after a full nectar meal.
The Tourmaline Sunangel forms part of the Heliangelus genus of hummingbirds, consisting of ten species that are only found in South America. The Tourmaline is by the most part green, with a purple gorget that brightens up on sunlight. They are small in size and have a thin dark bill. It shows some white on the vent and in the postocular spot. In good light, this hummingbird displays a purple-like gorget that looks metallic.
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.
The Shining Sunbeam is a weird species that shows a dull cinnamon belly, throat and face, with a dark olive back and wings, which do have strong iridescence that can be hard to spot, but that is very peculiar with a purple to gold smooth transition. From all the hummingbirds observed at Termales del Ruiz, which is situated at 3,000 meters above sea level, this one was the smallest, but it was also relatively numerous; it is bigger than woodstars though. The bill is relatively shot and thin, being black for the most part. The vent is covered in white plumage.