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The Hummingbirds of Costa Rica

Updated on August 20, 2014

Beautiful Gift for Hummingbird Lovers

If someone you love is a birder, or particularly fond of hummingbirds, this is a wonderful book to give as a present. It has many wonderful photographs of the various hummingbirds that live in Costa Rica, as well as much information about their lives, habits, the areas where they live, and many other details. Each photo is of a hummingbird feeding on one of its preferred flowers.

Details on contents

This book starts off with several chapters covering various aspects of the lives of hummingbirds in Costa Rica. It tells us what a hummingbird is. Not all hummingbirds are called "hummingbirds", but it is obvious that is what these birds are. The book goes on to talk about the flowers hummingbirds choose. This is based on the length and shape of the beak. The White-tipped Scimitar has a deeply curved beak, which limits its choices of flowers. Some hummingbird beaks are shorter than others. This also helps define the choices of flowers. Feeding strategies are described. Some hummingbirds will defend a cluster of flowers, driving off other hummers, including members of the same species. Other hummers feed in a trapline strategy, where they fly from one flower to the next, traveling a distaince. This strategy is more often employed when flowers contain less nectar. Some hummingbirds use each strategy during different times of day. Hummingbirds sometimes choose flowers that are more suited for feeding insects, particularly bees, and bats. The bat flowers usually yield leftover nectar in the morning.

The courtship and breeding behavior of hummingbirds is described. Very few hummers mate for life; most will simply mate and then the male disappears, leaving the female the total responsibility for building the nest, setting, and feeding the young. Males of some species gather in leks, small groups of singing males, to try to attract mates. A lek may contain up to 20 birds. Birds try to obtain the central location in the lek, where they are more likely to attract a mate. Right after the breeding season, hummers molt. Both breeding and molting take more energy, so they take place when flowers are most abundant.

The book also describes different locations in Costa Rica, and where you are likely to find certain species of birds. There is a chart in the back with extensive information on where to search for each species.

There are several appendices in the back, including a list of all the flowers, and the hummingbirds with their English and Spanish and zoological names. There is a short bibliography.

There are a couple of minor drawbacks to the book. It occasionally makes a passing reference to evolution. It doesn't add to the book in any way. I think it would be more accurate to say speciation is still occurring, if that is the case. The other drawback is that the book is too big and heavy to read in bed. I also would prefer it if they would put the scientific name below the common English name, on each individual hummingbird's page. The scientific name of each flower is listed with the photo; some of them don't have common names.

This book is available on Amazon. It is gorgeous!


Michael and Patricia Fogden

Michael and Patricia Fogden have spent over 20 years studying the hummingbirds of Costa Rica, and it shows. They know in intimate detail what each species tends to do. By the time you finish reading the book, you will feel like each species is an intimate friend, and you might easily identify them by sight were you to see one of them.

The authors are world-renowned nature photographers, and both have doctorates in zoology, from Oxford and London Universities, respectively.

They are also the authors of Costa Rica: Wildlife of the National Parks and Reserves.

Species of hummingbirds

The book tells us that there are 45 species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica. The book includes wonderful photographs of 44 of them. The one that was missed is the Plain-capped Starthroat, Heliomaster constantii. The reason is because in Costa Rica, these hummers live up in the canopy and are never close enough for photographs.

It just so happens that this particular hummer visits southern Arizona in summer. Last year, he visited Patagonia, and this year, he visited the valley just east of the Huachuca Mountains. There were also at least two in Madera Canyon. I was able to get a photograph of the one in Patagonia, so because you will not see him in the book, I am showing you one of my photos. :) Faintly under the shadow made by his head, you can see the tiny patch of iridescence that the males display (the "starthroat"). His back has a characteristic and unusual white rump.


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