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.
The Band-tailed Pigeon has an overall dull coloration, with gray upperparts and purplish underparts and head. A white band on the nape, iridescent green patch on the back of the neck, red eye ring and yellow bill distinguish it from any other pigeon or dove in Costa Rica. They inhabit the highlands, sharing habitat mostly with the Ruddy Pigeon, but the latter has an entirely different body color, hence they should not be easily confused.
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 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 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 dring 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.
Even though the Great-tailed Grackle has become unpopular for most people due to their feeding habits, the male is a beautiful black bird that shines in blue when exposed to sunlight. Granted they cause trouble to other birds, as they will readily raid nests with eggs and hatchlings, but in some sense that’s really their role in the ecosystem, as with their predatory behavior they prevent some species to grow out of control. Males are very noisy and display as they sing their metallic tones into the air; their tails have a v-shape as they are wider in the end that in the base. The females are entirely drab brown with a yellow iris. They thrive near human settlements, eating insects, but also a variety of plants, including fruits, which has gained them the reputation of pests in many areas.
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.
The Rufous-tailed Hummingbird is very common throughout the country and likes to forage at eye level in nearby gardens. They are very numerous around Porter Weeds, which is a prolific bush that grows in the low and mid elevations. They are territorial and known for being a bully against other hummingbirds, fighting with them and driving them out of their feeding zone frequently. It has a medium size and brilliant green colors in the chest, while the bill is red and the tail is reddish. It bears some resemblance to the Coppery-headed Emerald, however the latter species is smaller and has iridescent copper hues on the head as its name implies, and the Rufous-tailed has a red bill instead of black.