White-browed Spinetail (Hellmayrea gularis)

The White-browed Spinetail was the only species of Spinetails we ever saw in Colombia. It inhabits the paramo at Nevado del Ruiz, at an altitude of 4,200 meters above sea level. Its body coloration is composed of brown back and head, gray belly, chest and throat, and a gray supercilliary on top of the black eye. With this colors, it might look very dull and uninteresting, however it is an amazing fact for this little bird to withstand the lack of oxygen and low temperatures of this elevation, specially during the night.

Shining Sunbeam (Aglaeactis cupripennis)

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.

Plumbeous Sierra-Finch (Phrygilus unicolor)

Sierra-Finch is an appropriate name for this species, as they are specialized to live from 3,000 meters above sea level at higher. They are mostly seed eaters and take advantage of plants of the subparamo and paramo region. The male is gray in coloration, but sometimes looks blueish on overcast lighting. The female on the other side is streaked in a combination of brown, black and gray. While being a shy species, getting them at eye level is fairly easy, as the vegetation at such altitudes does not grow very tall, and due to the low oxygen content, they stay perched for long periods of time, presumably to conserve precious energy.

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.

Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis)

The Rufous-collared Sparrow is a common sight in the Central Valley of Costa Rica and the surrounding mountains, and it is also common in the regions of Colombia that we visited. It can be seen hopping in the grass, on the lookout for small worms and insects. They are not shy at all of people and will enter houses and buildings looking for food that may lie on the floor. The Juvenile lacks the Rufous collar around the neck and back. Common does not mean any less fascinating, and the “Comemaiz” is one of those common birds in Costa Rica that has more than one trick down its sleeve.