Hummingbirds of Costa Rica
Hummingbirds are the smallest of all birds and are found only in the Americas. There are many reasons why hummingbirds are interesting, and even more why you should find them here, in Costa Rica. Take a look:
Spotting Hummingbirds in Costa Rica
There are over 330 species of hummingbirds in total, with more than 50 species found in Costa Rica. There are even two species of hummingbirds that are ONLY found in Costa Rica. These endemic birds are the mangrove hummingbird and the coppery-headed emerald. Their unique anatomy and their flight patterns make hummingbirds one of the most interesting of all the families of birds.
In spite of their size, many hummingbirds can cover thousands of miles in their migrations. Imagine a creature weighing just a few grams making the journey from the Aleutian Islands to Baja, California. Or picture the tiny ruby-throated hummingbird that travels from Canada to Costa Rica!
People like to place feeders with sugar water to attract these brilliant little visitors. The hummingbirds quickly learn that a feast is waiting for them, and they will visit the feeders regularly. They are jealous and territorial too, so they often return to the same feeders as well. Hummingbirds will spend as much time defending their feeding spots as they do feeding.
One can sit for hours observing with awe these “sugar stations” and the frequent tricks they perform to feed and stop others from feeding. In locations like Monteverde, Cerro de la Muerte, and La Virgen, visitors can see 20+ species at a single feeder.
Hummingbirds are commonly found throughout Costa Rica, but they are often seen in larger numbers in specific regions, including the highlands, tropical dry forests, and the wet forests of the Caribbean. If you're interested in specific locations to observe these birds, consider visiting places like Arenal Volcano, Tapantí National Park, Coto Brus, Palo Verde National Park, Cahuita National Park, the areas around the Poás Volcano, San Gerardo de Dota, Turrialba, Sarapiquí, and other similar areas, where hummingbirds are frequently spotted.
Mating Behavior: A Fascinating Display
Watching hummingbirds mate is quite a sight. These birds grow up fast, usually reaching their full size in just a few months. They also have specific spots where they go to breed year after year. In Costa Rica, the mating season happens from November to March, mostly during the sunny months, though some places may have it earlier or later.
One exciting part of their courtship is the "courtship dive." This is when male hummingbirds do a high-speed dance. They flap their wings incredibly fast and speed up from about 30 miles per hour to a whopping 60 miles per hour. It's a pretty intense and graceful performance, showing off their unique mating rituals. After mating, the female lays two tiny eggs, about the size of coffee beans, in a small nest that is very hard to spot.
Fast Pollinators of the Forest
Hummingbirds, considered by some the jewels of all birds, are very important pollinators. They develop some of the most specialized relationships with plants and flowers. The shape of the bills of some hummingbirds has developed to perfectly match the shape of certain flowers. It is an exclusive relationship of pollination between the hummingbird and the plant, making them not just beautiful but essential to the local ecosystems.
Throughout Costa Rica, whether in the rainforest or in a hotel garden, visitors can expect to see and enjoy the flashes of color, the spectacular plumage, and the wondrous flight of the hummingbird. Try to be quick and take a pic, because you're looking at a local star!
- Costa Rica is home to over 50 species of hummingbirds, making it one of the most diverse hummingbird habitats in the world.
- Their wings flutter at a rate of approximately 60 times per second.
- Hummingbirds in the wild generally don't live very long, often less than a year or up to four years at most.
- When kept in captivity, their lifespan can extend quite a bit, often reaching around 15 to 17 years.
- At night, hummingbirds go into a kind of "hibernation" mode, lowering their metabolism and body temperature to save energy.
FAQs About Hummingbirds of Costa Rica
What is the smallest hummingbird species in Costa Rica?
The smallest hummingbird species in Costa Rica is the Vervain Hummingbird (Mellisuga minima), which measures only about 7.5 cm (3 inches) in length.
Why do hummingbirds migrate to Costa Rica?
They migrate to Costa Rica to escape harsh winters in North America. The mild climate and abundant food sources in Costa Rica provide a suitable habitat.
What is the role of hummingbirds in Costa Rican ecosystems?
Hummingbirds in Costa Rica play a vital role in pollinating a wide variety of native plants, contributing to the region's rich biodiversity and ecosystem health.
Do hummingbirds have predators?
Yes, hummingbirds have natural predators such as birds of prey, snakes, and even larger insects. They have developed various strategies, including agility and speed, to evade these threats.
Can I touch hummingbirds in Costa Rica?
No, it's not a good idea to touch hummingbirds in Costa Rica or anywhere else. Hummingbirds are very delicate, and touching them can hurt their feathers and transfer harmful substances from your skin to their plumage, which can harm them. To keep these beautiful birds safe and healthy, it's best to watch them from a distance without touching them.