Costa Rica hummingbirds are found from the coastlines up to 3820 meters above sea level at our highest point called mount Chirripo. Their impressive adaptations to extreme drops of temperature at Talamanca’s ridges and Central Volcanic Range are something worth learning about it. Fluctuations of temperatures at the higher peaks along the mountainous backbone of this tiny country can well be 15 degrees Celsius in a matter of minutes. Especially at night where rain and wind factors could increase the cooling process. Many of those so named highland hummingbirds shut down their heart beating in order to conserve the well needed energy to go on to the next day.
A very interesting situation happens when plant phenology (timing of flower and fruit production); tags along hummingbird craving for nectars, sugars, and similar. In order words at the worst timing of rain on the months from late August to late November plants are at their best on flower production and hummers rush since the first beams of light to fight over for territories, perches and even leks (courtship display areas); as in the case of restless Lessons Violet Ear formerly called Green Violet Ear. This mid-elevation to highlands species finds a high perch and frenetically sings very sharp notes without ever taking a second off. Of course it is logic that leaves from time to time to collect energy from plants or small insects on flight. All this occurs during the rainy season at places as Monteverde and San Gerardo de Dota. Commonly found as well in the lovely gardens of Paraiso de Quetzales, a quaint birding lodge found a few minutes of the main highway of Cerro de la Muerte.
Another similar behaviour but at much lower elevations and during different months is the case of Blue throated Goldentail a gorgeous little hummer with a conspicuous red/orange bill and iridescent blue throat noticeable more often with direct sunlight. This other species is the absolute winner when it comes to singing.
We have observed at Carara National Park and pretty much any patch of healthy lowland rainforest on the Pacific calling and calling and calling from skinny branches and twigs at the forest gaps. Presumably to attract females with its vivid colours. Both of these species of Costa Rica hummingbirds are territorial; they defend it aggressively against other species and their own. We have noticed and studied in the two of them patches of small canopy flowers are abundant meanwhile understory plants have almost none. In the case of Blue throated Goldentail it’s activity happens at the end of the rainy season until early April.
There are so many species of hummingbirds and to mention them all in a blog would be more like a few chapter book. We would like to address it from 2 different points of view:
For Bird Photographers, and Birders more interested in behavioural or scientific approach to bird observation. Our current expeditions are focused on birding as is normally known but our 15 day trips are more intimate with their natural history, apart from our daily listings, we will discuss their ecological roll and overall fascinating birdlife.
For Bird Photographers:
There will be few species we rarely will get a photo but most of them can be achieved within a minimum of 2 weeks tour. There are several differences between lowlands and upper elevations hummingbirds when it comes to photographing them. Lowland species are rather elusive and unwilling to sit still, it requires more understanding of their feeding habits. They are less numerous but more species per hectare as in the upper elevations, this means that we might see more species per region we will visit but less individuals per species.
Having a full understanding of those phenomena is crucial to the rate of success of the bird photography expedition. By the contrary the upper elevations not to say only highland species are fewer in species but far richer in quantity or at least obvious to our eyes.
Another important fact is that middle elevations up to our highest points flora have a higher need for flower visitors as those in lowlands. Some of the reasons can be cloud formations, wind variables and precipitation. All these are known as abiotic conditions meaning natural events that can and will change abruptly from time to time. Lowland rainforest, dry tropical forests are more predictable weather if you might call it somehow.
Well, birding in many ways is easier to achieve goals since we don’t need a specific light, distance or even climatic conditions to see birds. Costa Rica Hummingbirds except for very few species are easy to find, we rely on gardens, feeders, wild flowers etc. All we have to do is find a good garden or river edge and very likely you will find a good number of them.
Caribbean Slope versus Pacific Slope. It’s massive to try to not only comprehend the differences between species unique to each slope but is also very challenging to break it down even deeper on each part of Costa Rica.
Caribbean slope lowland hummingbirds in many opportunities are also found on the Pacific counterpart to mention plenty enough examples are all Hermits this atypical group of them are found equally in species at both slopes by exception of Northern Guanacaste “plains”. Here the quantity of them is greatly reduced due the vegetation composition force or control by precipitation. In more simple terms the more rain the more hummers.
Paficic Slope from Carara National Park to Osa Peninsula is what we consider lowland tropical forest; precipitation here reaches above 4000 mm during the rainy season a beat less from December to late April still a very large number of hummingbirds that don’t exist on the opposite side of the country, especially as you get closer to Panama. New species have been only recorded from Golfito to Tiskita Lodge at the very tip of Burica’s point area.
The Northern Pacific Slope has some restricted species such as Cinnamon Hummingbird, Canivet’s Emerald and the most sought out hummingbird on the planet Guanacaste or Alfaro’s Hummingbird. According to the Global Wildlife Organization this super rare bird might well be the most intricant find (if ever) in the world. CRBJ goals for 2021 would be to go out and try capturing a photo or film of this nemesis.
How different are the mid elevations on both slopes? Once again Costa Rica hummingbirds at middle elevations are nearly the same case scenario; although the major separations are near San Vito de Coto Brus. An area casually birded by a hand full of people.