What types of hummingbirds can you find in Costa Rica?
Hummingbirds have captivated people’s interest and attention for a long time. But because they’re incredibly fast and small, these birds can be hard to distinguish from each other. Most of the time, they just look like green, iridescent blurs streaking by your face!
Today, you will learn about 13 of the most COMMON hummingbirds found in Costa Rica.
There are DOZENS of different hummingbird species found here. For the sake of time, I did my best to narrow the list to the species that are most often seen and observed! Each description includes pictures, range maps, fun facts, AND ideas of how to attract them.
#1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Archilochus colubris
- Adults range from 2.8 to 3.5 inches in length and have a wingspan of 3.1 to 4.3 inches.
- Their coloring is bright emerald green on the back and crown with white-gray underparts and a black bill.
- Males have an iridescent red throat.
Look for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in Costa Rica only during the winter.
If you live in the eastern half of the United States and Canada, you may recognize this species as they migrate north during the breeding season. You may notice they are particularly aggressive in defending feeders and flower patches. They chase other hummingbirds, get into dogfights, and occasionally jab other hummingbirds with their bill!
These feisty little birds are incredibly agile in flight. However, their short legs prevent them from walking or hopping. They usually just perch for a short rest and then get back into the air.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have a particular affinity for red or orange tubular flowers, which are great to plant if you want to attract them. Hummingbird feeders are also a great idea, as they will visit them regularly once they discover them.
#2. Cinnamon Hummingbird
- Amazilia rutila
- Adults are 3.7 to 4.5 inches long.
- Their coloring is metallic bronze-green above and cinnamon below, slightly paler on the chin and upper throat.
- They have a bright red bill tipped in black, a chestnut tail, and dark brown wings.
Cinnamon Hummingbirds DO NOT migrate! Instead, they are a year-round resident in northern Costa Rica. If you’re lucky enough to live in its range, look for a medium-sized hummingbird in bronze, tan, and green shades.
Try planting tube-shaped red flowers, including encliandra fuchsias, peacock flowers, and cypress vine, to attract this species. Unfortunately, they are territorial and will defend preferred feeding sites from other hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
Except for breeding, Cinnamon Hummingbirds are solitary. Males will perform courtship displays, flying in a U-shape in front of females to try to convince them they are the best suitor.
#3. Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
- Amazilia tzacatl
- Adults range from 3.15 to 4.33 inches in length and have a wingspan of about 4.3 inches.
- Males are golden-green above and on the throat, ashy brown on the belly, and have a coppery tail.
- Females are similar, except their belly is paler gray or white.
- They have a nearly straight red bill with a dark tip.
Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds prefer semi-open areas in humid evergreen forests and banana or coffee plantations. This species’ elevation preference varies wildly with food availability. They may be seen in lowlands, along the shore, or even over 8,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains!
The typical Rufous-tailed Hummingbird in Costa Rica lives three to five years old.
However, even in the wild, some may live for much longer. The oldest recorded wild individual was 12 years old when it was discovered!
#4. White-necked Jacobin
- Florisuga mellivora
- Adults range from 4.3 to 4.7 inches long.
- Males have a dark blue head and chest, a white belly, and a white tail with black tips.
- Females have green upperparts, a belly, and a mostly green tail.
- They have a long black bill.
Looking at a White-necked Jacobin might leave you confused about their name! This is because most of their head and neck is a deep cobalt color with no white at all! However, they have a small patch of white feathers on the back of their neck, which is where the name comes from.
White-necked Jacobins inhabit humid, tropical, lowland forests and semi-open areas, including forest edges, coffee farms, and cacao plantations.
These hummingbirds show a preference for red, tubular flowers. Several individuals may feed at one tree but are often aggressive toward each other. They also feed on small insects and spiders, often catching them in mid-air while hovering or darting off a perch.
#5. Long-billed Hermit
- Phaethornis longirostris
- Adults range from 5.1 to 6.3 inches in length.
- Their coloring is brown and gray overall, with slightly lighter bellies and more brown on the back.
- They have a long, arched bill, long central tail feathers, and a dark face mask with pale stripes above and below the eyes.
Look for this unique hummingbird in Costa Rica in humid tropical lowlands.
This species hovers to feed, holding their tail streamers nearly vertical and then taking off with a sharp, explosive call. Long-billed Hermits have one of the most distinctive voices of all the hummingbird species, so this can be an easy way to recognize one if it visits.
Long-billed Hermits also have a distinctive mating style. The males gather in large groups, called “leks,” hoping to catch the attention of breeding females that fly by. Females choose a mate based on the best singing!
In addition, females look at the length of the males’ bills, which can be used for defense once breeding has started. Finally, male Long-billed Hermits will wiggle their long tail feathers in a dancing motion to attract the attention of a potential mate.
#6. Green-breasted Mango
- Anthracothorax prevostii
- Adults range from 4.3 to 4.7 inches in length.
- Males are deep green overall with a black throat and chest and a purplish tail.
- Females have bronze-green upper parts and white underparts. A dark stripe runs from the chin down the belly.
- Large, bulky hummingbird with a slightly arched black bill.
Green-breasted Mangos are the master home-builders of the hummingbird world. They use clever adaptations to make sure their nesting and roosting sites are well-protected and comfortable.
For example, female Green-breasted Mangos nest far enough off the ground to avoid predators, usually about seven feet. The nests are protected by tree foliage. She constructs the nest from moss and spider webs that stretch as the young birds grow, keeping them safe until they can fly away.
Interestingly, this species also chooses to nest and roost near an unlikely neighbor – stinging ants! It’s thought that the ants don’t bother the hummingbirds. However, their painful bite is a deterrent for predators.
#7. Violet Sabrewing
- Campylopterus hemileucurus
- Adults are about 5.9 inches long.
- Males are deep violet and bright blue with dark forest green on their back and wings.
- Females are dark green above and gray below.
- Both sexes have violet throats, large, thick, curved, black bills, and flashy white tail corners.
The stunning Violet Sabrewing is the largest hummingbird in Costa Rica.
It’s found in various tropical habitats, including inland forests, tropical grasslands, and coastal slopes.
You’re most likely to see Violet Sabrewings when they feed at dawn and dusk. Although many people picture a hummingbird zipping through the air, this species is known to spend roughly three-quarters of its awake time perched on branches or flowers. You could say it’s the “couch potato” of the hummingbird family! 🙂
Violet Sabrewings consume almost twice their weight in nectar each day. You might think this would make them gain weight with their relative lack of movement. But, a large hummingbird species needs the calories to keep up their strength!
To attract this hummingbird, you can plant brightly colored vines with long, tubular flowers. They prefer plants that allow them to feed on nectar and insects conveniently.
#8. Plain-capped Starthroat
- Heliomaster constantii
- Adults range from 4.3 to 5.1 inches long.
- They have metallic bronze-green upper parts, a white streak behind the eye, and a long, almost straight black bill.
- Their underparts are brownish-gray with a white belly, sooty chin, and a gorget that shines bright red in the sun.
Plain-capped Starthroats are members of the Mountain Gem group of hummingbirds. These medium-sized hummers are typically found in mountain and foothill regions. This habitat, combined with their metallic feathers, earned them this glamorous name!
Like other hummingbirds, Plain-capped Starthroats feed on nectar and insects. However, they also visit feeders, so if you live in their range, you may see them in your yard.
Little is known about the breeding habits of the Plain-capped Starthroat. This is because females are so good at hiding their nests! They place the tiny structures in dense foliage and camouflage the outside with lichen. So even the most seasoned birder could walk right by one and miss it.
#9. Canivet’s Emerald
- Cynanthus canivetii
- Adults range from 3 to 3.7 inches long.
- Males are solid emerald-green with a red bill and long, forked, blue-black tail.
- Females are bronze-green above and gray below, with a black bill and a shorter tail.
Look for this deep green hummingbird in northeastern Costa Rica in gardens, evergreen forest edges, and clearings.
Canivet’s Hummingbirds are year-round residents that never stray far from their home location. So if you can attract them to your yard, you’re almost guaranteed to keep seeing these beautiful birds!
In addition to their emerald coloring, these hummingbirds are sometimes recognized for their dry, scratchy, chattering call. It sounds a bit like a repeated, “tseee tseeree.”
#10. Green-crowned Brilliant
- Heliodoxa jacula
- Adults range from 4.7 to 5.1 inches long.
- Males are emerald green with a small blue throat patch only visible at some angles.
- Females are emerald green, with a spotted green breast, and white spots behind their eyes.
Green-crowned Brilliants inhabit mature secondary forests and residential gardens. They’re a relatively calm species and easy to attract to your yard!
Males generally feed in the middle and upper forest story, so it can be hard to see them. However, females also feed from small understory plants, garden flowers, and even hummingbird feeders. Their primary source of nectar is a vining plant called Marcgravia. This beautiful vine has colorful leaves that add a charming pop to gardens.
Interestingly, unlike most hummingbirds in Costa Rica, they cling to flowers to feed instead of hovering.
#11. Purple-throated Mountaingem
- Lampornis calolaemus
- Adults range from 3.9 to 4.5 inches in length.
- Males have bronze-green upper parts, a bluish-green forehead and crown, metallic violet or purple gorget (throat), and a dull blue-black tail.
- Females are green above with a black face and tawny underparts.
- Both sexes have a black bill and a white streak behind the eye.
As their name suggests, Purple-throated Mountaingems occupy humid montane evergreen or cloud forests. Cloud forests are high-elevation forests where there is consistent cloud cover, creating an ethereal, foggy landscape. Hummingbirds in Costa Rica are particularly fond of this habitat!
Purple-throated Mountaingems primarily feed on nectar from flowers but will also consume insects. Although they feed on many types of flowering plants, they’re the primary pollinator of a few species, including Palicourea elata, which is commonly called girlfriend’s kiss.
The males and females of this species also differ in feeding strategies. Males will defend patches of flowers from other hummingbird species, other males, and females after courtship. Females typically feed from flowers using a traplining strategy, moving through patches of flowers in a repeatable sequence. When catching insects, males often use a ” hawking strategy,” catching insects mid-air, while females prefer picking them off the foliage.
#12. Crowned Woodnymph
- Thalurania colombica
- Males are about 4 inches long, violet on the head and belly, and shiny green overall. In addition, they have a forked blue-black tail.
- Females are about 3.3 to 3.5 inches long, bright green above and duller green below, with a rounded tail.
Despite being smaller, female Crowned Woodnymphs are unquestionably tougher than their male counterparts! They’re more aggressive in defending feeding territories, leading to higher quality feeding areas that produce more nectar. They also defend their territories from intruders of other species.
And this tenacity doesn’t stop with defending their food supply. The female also hatches and cares for her offspring completely alone. She feeds her hatchlings by mouth for about twenty days before teaching them to fly and gather nectar on their own. The females of this species are truly incredible!
If you want to see Crowned Woodnymphs in Costa Rica, try planting Heliconias.
They also like bromeliads and epiphytes and sometimes visit feeders at edges and clearings. Like other hummingbirds, both sexes also consume small insects and spiders.
#13. Fiery-throated Hummingbird
- Panterpe insignis
- Adults range from 4.1 to 4.3 inches in length.
- Their back is metallic green with a rosy orange throat and a violet-blue patch on the breast.
- They have a blue-black tail, mostly black bill with a pink base, and white spots behind the eyes.
These stunning hummingbirds are a true mountain species in Costa Rica. They’re rarely seen below 4,500 feet and spend most of their time higher, venturing as far as the tree line in many places.
Fiery-throated Hummingbirds in Costa Rica survive at these high altitudes by doing nearly anything for a meal! At flowers that are too deep for their bills, they make holes or use ones made by bumblebees or flower piercers, drinking from the base of the flower instead. They also frequently visit nectar feeders. Additionally, they feed on insects by gleaning them from foliage or catching them in mid-air.
They’re aggressive and dominant over most other hummingbird species when defending their feeding territories. Males will defend territories during the breeding season but allow females to feed. Then, after breeding, both sexes defend territories from other species and each other.
Do you want to learn more about hummingbirds?
If so, here are a few books you should consider purchasing. 🙂
Which of these hummingbirds in Costa Rica have you seen?
Let us know in the comments!
The range maps in this article were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!