Hummingbirds in Costa Rica are iridescent, fast, cute and astonishing… Just like anywhere else. But here, in this small country, you can find more hummingbirds than all the United States and Canada together. And again… in a small range. Wouldn’t you like to see them?

In Costa Rica, we are born and raised watching hummingbirds. They are very common to see in our gardens, and if you are raised on the outskirts of the Central Valley and especially in the higher mountains are such a part of your routine that you don’t even notice them anymore.
All of them are small, fast and cute. And if you see them close enough you will see an unrestricted beauty in every single magical detail.

Now…. Let’s talk a bit about them. Where can you see the majority of them, how do they nest, and particularly when, how easy are they to spot in the different regions, and to answer the feeders polemic.

As an introduction:

Hummingbirds are from the Americas and constitute the family Trochilidae. They are some of the smallest of birds in the World, most species measuring 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in) in length.

They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound generated by their whipping wings which wave at high frequencies audible to humans.
They flutter in mid-air at rapid wing-flapping rates, typically around 70 to 80 times per second, allowing them also to fly at speeds exceeding 15 m/s (54 km/h; 34 mph).

Hummingbirds have the greatest metabolism of any homeothermic animal. To keep energy when food is limited, and nightly when not foraging, they go into dormancy, a state similar to hibernation, slowing metabolic rate to 1/15th of its normal rate.

Evolution of the Hummingbirds:

Hummingbirds in Costa RIcaA map of the hummingbird family tree—rebuilt from the examination of 284 of the 338 species in the World—shows rapid diversification from 22 million years ago.
Hummingbirds fall into nine main clades, the Brilliants, Coquettes, Patagona, Mountain Gems, Bees, Topazes, Hermits, Mangoes, and Emeralds, describing their relation to nectar-bearing blooming plants and how the birds’ extended their range into new geographic territories.

While all hummingbirds depend on flower nectar to fuel their unique metabolisms and wavering flight, organized changes in flower- and bill shape supports the formation of new species of hummingbirds as much as the plants that feed them. Due to this unusual evolutionary twist, many hummingbird species can coincide in a particular region.

The hummingbird evolutionary tree shows hummingbirds splitting from insectivorous swifts (family Apodidae) and treeswifts (family Hemiprocnidae) about 42 million years ago.
One key evolutionary factor appears to be an altered taste receptor that enabled hummingbirds to seek nectar. By 22 million years ago the ancestral species of current hummingbirds became established in South America, where environmental conditions stimulated further diversification.

Habitat:

Hummingbirds belong exclusively to the American continent.
They are found in very diverse climates and life systems, from the very humid mangroves to the much cooler highlands forests.

Breeding

Mating is a fascinating thing to observe. Most species are fully grown when they are few months old.
They typically have breeding territories that they repeat to year after year.
In Costa Rica, the reproductive season is from November to March (Sunny season) except for a few areas that have it earlier or later.

The courtship dive is the sign that shows that something is going on.
The males may flap the wings hundreds of times per second to get the attention of the female. He will also increase his flight velocity from about 30 miles per hour to about 60 miles per hour.
The courting dive is very intense, however gracefully executed.
The male will go at least 60 feet in the air and then fall nose first at a smashing speed, then arc, and reiterate it over and over again.

Nesting

Hummingbird nests are very hard to spot because they are so small and so well camouflaged.
Usually, the Costa Rican local tour guides know where they are. You may find them under a leaf, on a bridge rail, or behind a flower. They are rather small, soft, cup like and placed to be covered from predators. Although, you may usually find them in low areas of the rainforest.

Feeding

Hummingbird in the rainforests of Costa Rica

Hummingbird in the rainforests of Costa Rica

Usually, the hummingbirds feed on the flower’s nectar developing relations with certain plants that are “made for them.”
However, in many areas in Costa Rica, you will see the feeders and dozens of hummingbirds around them.
There is a polemic around this, as it is not 100% natural and Costa Rica has plenty of food all year round.
Although the sugar (If the feeders are extremely clean, the used water is boiled, and the sugar does not contain any additives) apparently does not harm them, feeding wild species is always touching the untouchable and breaking nature’s balance.

Where to see hummingbirds in Costa Rica?

As previously stated: Everywhere.
Even downtown San Jose, if there are flowers to feed them, the Rufous-Tailed Hummers will be around.
However, of course, there are areas where there are more species, and you can easily find some unique endemic species like the Mangrove Hummingbird or the Volcano Hummingbird.

The following list has are the places where you can find more species easily visible:

San Gerardo de Dota, 10-15 species

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Hummingbird Gallery. Up to 26 species

Areas near Poas Volcano / LaPaz Waterfall Gardens: Up to 26 species

Bosque De Paz: Up to 12 species

Bajos del Toro: Up to 27 species

Rancho Naturalista
Up to 15 species, however, it has some of the rarest and more beautiful species such as Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Brown Violet-ear, Green Hermit, Green Thorntail, Violet Sabrewing, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and Green-crowned Brilliant. The Black-crested Coquette, the Violet-headed Hummingbird and possibly the Garden Emerald.

Esquinas Lodge in La Gamba (South of Costa Rica), When the plants are blossoming, this region can be especially good for hummingbirds. Heliconias in the gardens attract four species of hermits; Charming Hummingbird is common as well as White-crested Coquettes!

Cafe Colibri at Cinchona. Up to 25 species

Catarata del Toro Up to 27 species

In Conclusion:

Hummingbirds in Costa Rica are a great thing to behold! They are like fairies in the forest, swift and fast. The experience of their buzzing around your ear is a memory for a lifetime, especially if in your area there are no hummers.
But even beyond the hummingbirds and their amazing beauty and grace, look at the frame around it. The forest, the flowers that they feed on, the magnificent butterflies and all the wildlife.

Costa Rica is a fantastic country to visit and has an amazing diversity of all sorts of things, from huge trees to the tiniest hummer. Ask our Travel Consultants about what you want to see, and follow your dream!


 

Written by Olga Sáenz-Carbonell for Camino Travel. If you have any comments or doubts, please write to blogwriter@caminotravel.com

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The Insider’s Guide to the hummingbirds in Costa Rica – CAMINO TRAVEL

Olga Sáenz-Carbonell – O.S.C. {The Insider’s Guide to the hummingbirds in Costa Rica – CAMINO TRAVEL. (2017). CAMINO TRAVEL. Retrieved 15 May 2017, from https://www.caminotravel.com/insiders-guide-hummingbirds-costa-rica/

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