Oct 17 2008

Hummingbirds of Chiriquí

Published by at 12:26 am under Birding,Central America,Travel

OK, Sharon, this one’s for you, in particular…

While the volcanic highlands that stretch across the Costa Rica-Panama border don’t have quite the bird diversity of some of the surrounding lowlands, they are especially rich in a couple of groups. Hummingbirds, while also well-represented elsewhere, are a major attraction here, especially at Los Quetzales Ecolodge & Spa, which is easily one of my favorite eco-destinations, period.

Nestled on a hillside amidst a riot of vegetation, the “primitive” cabins above town are my favorite place of all. We spent nearly the entire morning there Wednesday, just watching the show. Hummingbirds were the star family, without doubt. They fight for spots at or near the feeders all around the cabin above. You can see several members of our group staking out some of the many choice spots for observing and photographing these marvelous birds.

Female hummingbirds have a somewhat deserved reputation as Plain Janes, but this White-throated Mountain-Gem is strikingly beautiful, don’t you think? She could be described as plain only in direct comparison to the male of this species, but that hardly seems fair, or necessary. You’ll want to enjoy studying both sexes of this stunner. Speaking of which, here’s a male, caught just as he left his perch, no doubt to drive away a competitor.

Believe it or not, the Mountain-Gem drives away even the biggest, most badass-looking hummingbird in the neighborhood: the colossal Violet Saberwing, which is pictured below.

It may be hard to judge size from the photo, but the subjective impression is that this guy is huge–he seems more like the size of a robin than a hummingbird, though I’m sure his actual measurements are much, much smaller.

More average in size and more retiring is a very special hummingbird called the Fiery-throated. Not only is he endemic to the Panama-Costa Rica mountains, he possesses perhaps the most complex assemblage of iridescent colors of any bird I have ever seen. You can get a little idea of that complexity here.

But when he turns to face you, he just lights up, a tiny fireworks display in the undergrowth.

Most secretive of all was a hummer that I never even saw visit the feeders. She was nesting under one of the cabin’s porches, apparently unconcerned with the whirlwind of hummingbird activity all around her. She was also, I am pleased to say, a life bird for me–I’ve seen a decent percentage of Central America’s hummingbird species, but this was my first audience with the Green-fronted Lancebill.

Lancebill, indeed. Isn’t it amazing how she folds herself into that tiny space?

Of course, hummingbirds weren’t the only birds we saw here. I’ll share a few of the others with you next.

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Hummingbirds of Chiriquí”

  1. Elizabeth Gordonon 17 Oct 2008 at 12:57 am

    Such sharp photos…you make me so proud!
    That fiery-throat is magnificent.

  2. Vickieon 17 Oct 2008 at 6:40 am

    All I could say was “wow”, looking at these images, especially the last three. Awesome photos and much enjoyed.

  3. Franceon 17 Oct 2008 at 9:21 am

    I miss Los Quetzales! I actually bartended there one night….

  4. Billon 17 Oct 2008 at 2:01 pm


    nice pix! Wish I’d been there with you. Oh wait! I WAS, but I don’t have your mad photo skilz.

  5. Sharon Lynnon 18 Oct 2008 at 10:20 am

    These photos are just beautiful. I especially love the fiery throated shots, and the nesting green lance bill. This seems like a place from my dreams!

  6. Chris Weston 19 Oct 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Wow! Nice shots! Those hummers are amazing! Especially that Fiery-throated! What a fitting name for that bird. :) I really need to get down there sometime and see those birds for myself!

    Happy Birding!

  7. Rick Wrighton 31 Oct 2008 at 12:37 pm

    I love Los Quetzales! Best food in Panama, and the lancebill was nesting on the same wall when I was there, what, two years ago. One of these days Alison and I are just going to hole up in one of those upper cabins for a month or two.
    Great pictures, Jeff.

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