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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
The Booted Racket-tail is simply a marvel of nature. It has a long tail, which is composed of bare rachises ending in a wide racket-like structure. At first glance, it can resembled the Long-tailed Sylph, but the tail’s shape is unmistakable once taken notice. The long, slim tail ending in a wide feather reminds me of a Motmot, albeit a very small one. Other than its most conspicuous trait, it has white feathers covering its legs, which explains why it is called Booted. The body is mostly green but iridescent like many hummingbirds, making it change in coloration with the view angle. The black bill is straight and short.
The Blue-headed Sapphire is a very conspicuous hummingbird. It has an iridescent green body with brown wings and white feathers on its legs, sharing this combination of colors with many hummingbirds. However, its head is a deep blue, almost violet coloration, and it has a dark pink bill with a black tip, which makes it stand out of the crowd. It is shy in comparison with other birds that approached the feeders at Finca Alejandria, and when I first saw, it was on feeders inside the forest, in a very dark environment. It did came to a feather in the outside and perched long enough to get a good picture of it.