Hummingbirds of Costa Rica

If you don’t live in the Western Hemisphere you miss out on hummingbirds, and I feel really bad about that.

I cannot imagine a world without these little birds with their long, narrow beaks, and wings that beat, on average, 50 times per second. They fly forward, sideways, backwards and even upside down. They zip by you super fast, zipping sound effect and all. Bees fly ferociously by me and I freak out and run for the hills, but when a hummingbird does it, it all seems adorable and exciting.

Costa Rica has 50 different species of hummingbirds, which sounds like a staggering number until you compare to Ecuador, which has 132, and Colombia at 165. Nevertheless, 50 is still a great number to have, especially when most people in the United States may only see one hummingbird species their whole lives and, well, the Eastern Hemisphere sees none at all.

Something about hummingbirds feels delicate, precious and even otherworldly. The males often have iridescent gorgets, caps, bellies and/or back, and they look like jewels glistening in the sun and just one little flash of iridescence makes me swoon. Female hummingbirds are typically more drab as expected in the bird world, but sometimes they surprise you with a little bit of their own flashy raiment.

The Costa Rica hummingbirds did not disappoint, so that’s why I’ve pulled together my favorite photos from our recent trip (including two photos from Steve’s trip he did in 2019). It’s always fun seeing hummingbirds and can be a real challenge photographing them, though I’d say warblers are far more difficult to photograph. Our skills as photographers are sub-par, but we try nonetheless.

In the caption of each photo I’ve indicated the location or lodge where we snapped the photo. And don’t miss the two videos at the end where Steve and I each fed hummingbirds by hand.

Hummingbird Roundup

The Rufous-tailed Hummingbird was the most wide-spread hummer we found on our trip. We saw it in the highlands, the lowlands and along the Pacific Coast. He was consistently the bully at the verbena hedges and tried to chase off any other hummingbirds.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (At Mistico Hanging Bridges Park)

It’s not often you get a hummingbird perching cooperatively like the Bronze-tailed Plumeteer, but this one happily obliged.

Bronze-tailed Plumeteer (at Arenal Observatory)

Neither of the next two photos of the Blue-throated Goldentail are sharp, but they show that this hummingbird has a thick coral bill with black on the tip. It’s the only hummingbird in Costa Rica with such a deep coral bill color.

Blue-throated Goldentail (At Arenal Observatory)
Blue-throated Goldentail (at Celeste Lodge)

One of my favorites is the Green Violetear and here he’s displaying why he’s called just that. Below him is the Magnificent Hummingbird followed by a trio shot of the Magnificent with two Green Violetears sitting like jewels as they shimmer in the sun.

Green Violetear (Savegre Lodge)
Magnificent Hummingbird (Savegre Lodge)
Green Violetear and Magnificent Hummingbird (Savegre Lodge)

Sorry for the not-so-great shot below of the Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, but this was our only snap of that bird.

Scaly-breasted Hummingbird (At Arenal Observatory)

And if the light had been better, this Green-Crowned Brilliant would be even more brilliant, though it is a female and she’s not as dazzling as her male counterpart.

Green-crowned Brilliant (female) (Savegre Lodge)

White-throated Mountain-gems are always a treat to see. The next two snaps show two different looks of the male, followed by a snap of the female, which has some iridescence of her own.

White-throated Mountain-gem (Savegre Lodge)
White-throated Mountain-gem (Savegre Lodge–photo snapped by Steve during his 2019 trip to Costa Rica)
White-throated Mountain-gem (female) (Savegre Lodge)

The Scintillant Hummingbird has a cool name and is an itty bitty hummingbird that is sometimes confused with the Volcano Hummingbird. It’s nice having bird guides help us ID these, along with spending hours pouring over our field guide as we examine each drawing.

Scintillant Hummingbird (female) (Savegre Lodge)

Don’t ask me how many shots I took of this White-throated Mango. I will lie and just say 15.

White-throated Mango (Rancho Naturalista)

The White-necked Jacobin is the one hummingbird I can easily identify. I remember it on our first trip to Ecuador and finding him here was like running into an old friend.

White-necked Jacobin (Rancho Naturalista)
White-necked Jacobin (female) (Rancho Naturalista)

Too much has happened in the world since 2019 when Steve went to Costa Rica. So the birding lodge where he saw this Long-billed Hermit escapes his memory. But this shot with the flower certainly shows you why this hummer has that long, curved bill.

Long-billed Hermit (at a birding lodge Steve can’t recall)

The Crowned Woodnymph is certainly one of the most iridescent with a variety of colors. I was lucky enough to get a shot of the female with her outstretched wings showing teal. Not a perfect shot, but you get to see all those glorious colors.

Crowned Woodnymph (Rancho Naturalista)
Crowned Woodnymph (female)

I’m still giddy about seeing the Snowcap. It’s not an easy bird to get. It’s range is only a tiny speck on the Costa Rica map and the best way to find it is to know someone else who saw it.

Snowcap (Rancho Naturalista)
Snowcap (Rancho Naturalista)

The Black-crested Coquette wasn’t even on my radar to find. I was taking snaps of the Snowcap when our guide called out, “Oh look! The Black-crested Coquette!” And there it was with its long, wiry crest.

Black-crested Coquette
Black-crested Coquette

Feeding hummingbirds by hand – Videos

What you can’t see is the giant smile on my face as I’m hand-feeding the hummingbirds. (Sevegre Lodge)
Steve feeds a Magnificent Hummingbird (Sevegre Lodge)
This goes down in the books as one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

Want to read more about hummingbirds?

Check out these other posts about our hummingbird encounters.