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 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 Green Thorntail has a tail with a unique shape, where the feathers are disjoint and look like an X. While generally the body of the male is gliterring green, its head looks grayish unless seen from the perfect angle. In low light, the head may take on dark purple tones. Both male and female show a white band on the back. The female also has white on the cheeks and belly, interspersed by black markings which join in a stripe running through the center of the belly. These are very small hummingbirds with a flight pattern very much like a bee, being smooth and slow, instead of the very fast movements that larger hummingbirds display.
This coquette is a really small hummingbird, a little bit bigger than the Scintillant Hummingbird. When in the air, it resembles more a bee than a hummingbird, as it moves pretty smoothly. Most of the hummingbirds we normally see will move on short bursts of speed, and will constantly change from flower to flower, whereas this one had more predictable and swift movements. I have seen them in La Fortuna de San Carlos, and more surprisingly for me at my parent´s home in Rio Frio, right by the Porter Weed plantation that we created.
The Lesser Violetear belongs to the same genus as the Brown Violetear, however they look pretty different due to the overall color. This species is by the most part green, however it has a big violet ear patch that is visible from any angle (not caused by iridescence) and also shows some blue-violet glow on the chest. The wing is dark brown above and light brown on the underside. After perching, this species of hummingbird has an habit of stretching its wings to the back for a moment.
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.