Hummingbirds of Central America

Coppery-headed Emerald (Elvira cupreiceps) - Costa Rica, July 2012
Welcome to the (still wildly incomplete) Hummingbirds of Central America section of my blog. The idea here is to collect reasonable quality photos - ahem - in one place, allowing comparison of similar species.

Hummingbird of course lead busy lives, and not all individuals will reward you with prolonged looks to sort out field mark minutiae. Key features to note when identifying a hummingbird are overall size of the bird; color, shape and length of the bill; shape and pattern of the tail. Focus your attention on these details first and call them out to your birding party, or to yourself mentally. Patience is often rewarded, as territorial hummingbirds - given five, ten, sometimes fifteen minutes - return to the same food source over and over, allowing you to observe additional field marks. Other species, the so-called trap-line feeders, cover wide areas each day, and good food sources may be visited by a series of different individuals. Be aware that the hummingbird that 'reappeared' after a few minutes may be a new individual!

All of the photos shown here were taken by me of birds in the wild; in some cases I present photos of wild birds in the hand, caught at a banding station. All these birds in the hand were carefully and quickly processed by licensed bird banders, when necessary properly cared for, and then released.

Note that the species are organized by genus, not by geographic area. Brief descriptions of geographic and elevational range are included, to roughly give an idea where the species can be expected.

I've included some sound files from xeno-canto here, represented under a Creative Commons license, to aid in learning hummingbird vocalizations. Trying to learn these vocalizations myself, I find that some species have great individual variation (e.g. Green Violetear), many species have regional variation, and that differences between species sometimes are very subtle. Bear that in mind while reviewing the sound files offered here.

Click on the photos for detailed views. All photos © John van Dort.

You can browse regular blog entries on hummingbirds by selecting either individual species or the keyword hummingbirds in the list of keywords on the right side of this page.

Brief note on ageing of hummingbirds

In the hand, most hummingbirds can be aged as HY (hatch year) or AHY (after hatch year) by examining the bill for the presence of corrugations or striations. These bill striations are tiny marks, usually angled 30-60° relative to the length of the bill, and are in fact growth marks, indicating a first year or HY bird. As the hummingbird ages, the bill becomes smoother and harder.


Green-throated Mountain-gem, Lampornis viridipallens (El Salvador, December 2010)
Click on this photo, and then click on it again, for a close-up view of the bill of this young mountain-gem. A series of tiny marks is visible along the ridge of the upper mandible.

In many genera, e.g. Amazilia and Lampornis, the presence of buffy tips on the head and lower back feathers is also indicative of a younger (HY) bird.

Green-throated Mountain-gem, Lampornis viridipallens (El Salvador, December 2010)
For example, both these birds are Green-throated Mountain-gems, a species in which only the adult male has a green throat. The bird on the left is an adult female (white throat, no buffy tips on head) while the bird on the right is a first year bird (buffy tips on head).

Magnificent Hummingbird, Eugenes fulgens (Honduras, January 2011)


This immature Magnificent Hummingbird has extensive buffy feather tips on the upperparts and whitish feather tips on the throat. 


Genus Campylopterus - Sabrewings

Violet Sabrewing - Campylopterus hemileucurus
Geographic range: Mexico to western Panama
Elevational range: sea level - 2500 masl
Notes: A very large species; white distal part of male's outer tail feathers often conspicuous. Female with purple throat and dusky-gray underparts.

Violet Sabrewing - Campylopterus hemileucurus (male, Panama, August 2010)



Rufous Sabrewing - Campylopterus rufus
Geographic range: On Pacific Slope from eastern Oaxaca (MX) to El Salvador
Elevational range: 50 - 2000 masl
Notes: Ages/sexes similar.

Rufous Sabrewing - Campylopterus rufus (El Salvador, July 2010)
Rufous Sabrewing - Campylopterus rufus (El Salvador, July 2010)




Genus Glaucis - Hermits

Bronzy Hermit- Glaucis aeneus
Geographic range: Eastern Honduras to western Panama; western Colombia to western Ecuador
Elevational range: sea level - 1800 masl

Bronzy Hermit - Glaucis aeneus (Costa Rica, November 2010)


Bronzy Hermit - Glaucis aeneus (hatch year, Costa Rica, November 2010)



Genus Phaethornis - Hermits

Long-billed Hermit - Phaethornis longirostris
Geographic range: central Mexico to western Ecuador
Elevational range: sea level - 1000 masl
Notes: formerly known as Long-tailed Hermit, Phaethornis superciliosus.

Long-billed Hermit - Phaethornis longirostris (hatch year, Costa Rica, November 2010)



 Genus Anthracothorax

Green-breasted Mango - Anthracothorax prevostii
Geographic range: Mexico to Peru and northern Venezuela
Elevational range: sea level - 1000 masl

Green-breasted Mango - Anthracothorax prevostii (male, El Salvador, August 2010)


Green-breasted Mango - Anthracothorax prevostii (female, El Salvador, September 2010)


Green-breasted Mango - Anthracothorax prevostii (immature, Costa Rica, November 2010)
Green-breasted Mango - Anthracothorax prevostii (immature, Costa Rica, November 2010)



Genus Colibri

Green Violetear - Colibri thalassinus
Geographic range: Mexico to Ecuador and northern Bolivia
Elevational range: 1000 - 3000 masl

Green Violetear - Colibri thalassinus (Panama, August 2010)


Green Violetear - Colibri thalassinus (Panama, August 2010)



Genus Hylocharis

White-eared Hummingbird - Hylocharis leucotis
Geographic range: Mexico to northwestern Nicaragua
Elevational range: 1200 - 3500 masl
Notes: Often the most abundant hummingbird in pine-oak forest.

White-eared Hummingbird - Hylocharis leucotis (male, Honduras, December 2011)


White-eared Hummingbird - Hylocharis leucotis (male, Honduras, January 2010)


White-eared Hummingbird - Hylocharis leucotis (female, El Salvador, January 2011)


Genus Amazilia

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird - Amazilia tzacatl
Geographic range: Mexico to Venezuela
Elevational range: sea level - 1800 masl
Notes: Common in a variety of habitats, including urban settings.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird - Amazilia tzacatl (Costa Rica, November 2010)
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird - Amazilia tzacatl (Costa Rica, December 2010)

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird - Amazilia tzacatl (Costa Rica, November 2010)



Cinnamon Hummingbird - Amazilia rutila
Geographic range: Mexico to Costa Rica
Elevational range: sea level - 1600 masl
Notes: Common in a variety of habitats, including urban settings.
Cinnamon Hummingbird (Honduras, November 2012). Mostly dark maxilla indicates hatch-year bird.

Cinnamon Hummingbird (El Salvador, July 2011). Mostly red bill suggests male.


Cinnamon Hummingbird (El Salvador, January 2011)




Snowy-bellied Hummingbird (Panama, August 2010)






Azure-crowned Hummingbird - Amazilia cyanocephala
Geographic range: Mexico to northwestern Nicaragua
Elevational range: near sea level - 2400 masl
Azure-crowned Hummingbird (Honduras, February 2011)
Azure-crowned Hummingbird (Honduras, December 2011)


Blue-tailed Hummingbird - Amazilia cyanura
Geographic range: Mexico to Costa Rica
Elevational range: sea level - 1800 masl
Notes: Adult male appears dark from most angles, brilliant dark green from certain angles. Female with whitish belly and breast.
Blue-tailed Hummingbird (ad male, Honduras, May 2011)



Genus Discosura

Green Thorntail - Discosura conversii
Geographic range: Costa Rica to western Ecuador
Elevational range: 700 - 1400 masl
Green Thorntail (male, Costa Rica, December 2008)



Genus Thalurania - Woodnymphs

Violet-crowned Woodnymph - Thalurania colombica
Geographic range: Guatemala to western Venezuela
Elevational range: sea level - 2500 masl

Violet-crowned Woodnymph - Thalurania colombica (Costa Rica, November 2010)
Violet-crowned Woodnymph (Costa Rica, November 2010)



Genus Elvira

Coppery-headed Emerald - Elvira cupreiceps
Geographic range: Costa Rica
Elevational range: 300 - 1500 masl
Coppery-headed Emerald (male, Costa Rica, December 2008)

Genus Lampornis - Mountain-gems

As the common indicates, these are mostly highland species. This genus is largely restricted to Central America, with one representative entering the United States (Blue-throated Hummingbird). Fairly large hummingbirds.

White-throated Mountain-gem - Lampornis castaneoventris
Geographic range: Southern Costa Rica and extreme western Panama
Elevational range: above 1500 masl

White-throated Mountain-gem (male, Panama, August 2010)



Green-breasted Mountain-gem - Lampornis sybillae
Geographic range: Eastern Honduras to northern Nicaragua
Elevational range: 1400 - 2200 masl
Notes: forms a superspecies with the parapatric Green-throated Mountain-gem. Go here for a detailed discussion of plumage details in the Green-breasted Mountain-gem.


Green-breasted Mountain-gem (male, Honduras, June 2010)


Green-breasted Mountain-gem (male, Honduras, June 2010)

Green-breasted Mountain-gem (female, Honduras, August 2010). Female of this species very similar to female Green-throated Mountain-gem, but usually with buffy throat (white in Green-throated).



Green-throated Mountain-gem - Lampornis viridipallens
Geographic range: Southeastern Mexico to western Honduras
Elevational range: 900 - 2700 masl
Notes: forms a superspecies with the allopatric Green-breasted Mountain-gem.

Green-throated Mountain-gem (male, El Salvador, December 2009)

Green-throated Mountain-gem (male, El Salvador, December 2010)



Amethyst-throated Hummingbird - Lampornis amethystinus
Geographic range: Central Mexico to Honduras
Elevational range: 900 - 3000 masl

Amethyst-thoated Hummingbird (female, El Salvador September 2010)

Amethyst-thoated Hummingbird (female, El Salvador Dec 2010)


Genus Heliodoxa

Green-crowned Brilliant - Heliodoxa jaculaGeographic range: Costa Rica to western Ecuador
Elevational range: 700 - 2000 masl

Green-crowned Brilliant (imm male, Panama, Aug 2010)


Genus Eugenes

Magnificent Hummingbird - Eugenes fulgens
Geographic range: southwestern USA to western Panama
Elevational range: 1000 - 3000 masl
Magnificent Hummingbird (male, Panama, August 2010)
Magnificent Hummingbird (immature, Honduras, January 2011)

Magnificent Hummingbird (male, Panama, August 2010)






Genus Lamprolaima


Garnet-throated Hummingbird - Lamprolaima rhami
Geographic range: Central Mexico to western Honduras
Altitudinal range: 1200 - 3000 masl

Garnet-throated Hummingbird - Lamprolaima rhami (male, El Salvador, January 2011)

Garnet-throated Hummingbird - Lamprolaima rhami (male, El Salvador, December 2010)

Genus Heliomaster - Starthroats

Plain-capped Starthroat - Heliomaster constantii
Geographic range: western Mexico to northwestern Costa Rica
Elevational range: sea level - 1500 masl

Plain-capped Starthroat - Heliomaster constantii (Honduras, January 2012)
Plain-capped Starthroat - Heliomaster constantii (El Salvador, September 2010)




Genus Archilochus


Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubris
Geographic range: Migrant and winter visitor, from Mexico to Panama
Elevational range: sea level - 3000 masl

Ruby-throated Hummingbird- Archilochus colubris (imm. male, El Salvador, January 2011)



Genus Selasphorus

Scintillant Hummingbird - Selasphorus scintilla
Geographic range: Costa Rica and western Panama
Elevational range: 1200 - 2100 masl

Scintillant Hummingbird - Selasphorus scintilla (Panama, August 2010)


Genus Doricha

Slender Sheartail - Doricha enicura
Geographic range: southeastern Mexico (Chiapas), Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras
Elevational range: 1000 - 2200 masl

Slender Sheartail - Doricha enicura (Honduras, May 2011)

8 comments:

Spirit-N-Breath said...

Simply glorious thank you for sharing
your photos.

WildFlower said...

very beautiful it's nice to see some parts of my home from so far away

WildFlower said...

its very beautiful collection. its nice to see some parts of my home so far away

Michael Retter said...

Hi. Nice gallery. Your female White-throated Mountain-gem appears to be a young male Green-crowned Brilliant. Among other things, the lack of white postocular stripe and the presence of a long, forked tail eliminate the mountain-gem.

Jack Muredtro said...

dont u breack the legs of the hummingbirds?
how did u catch them?
to those humming did u put a ring to? and what sice?

johnvandort said...

@Jack: thanks for commenting. No, I did not break any hummingbird legs. Some of the birds you see here in the hand were caught at a bird banding station with mist-nets. The birds are banded with very small, metal bands that allow us to study individual hummingbirds, and thus learn more about their life history. These bands are cut to size, depending on the size of the hummingbird's feet, and do not harm the hummingbird.

Guatemala Tour Travel Guide- Pablo Chumil, Lake Atitlan said...

Wow amazing pictures thanks

Guatemala Tour Travel Guide- Pablo Chumil, Lake Atitlan said...

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