Sunday, September 11, 2022

Hummingbird Species

The hummingbirds of Costa Rica are some of the most beautiful and unique in the world. They are a small group of birds, consisting of just five species, that migrate from their winter homes in Mexico to spend the summer months in Central America, often flying over 5,000 miles to reach their destination. The females will lay eggs for only one day at a time, and the male will feed them nectar by regurgitating it back into her mouth, so they must quickly leave when the female lays an egg. They also have a very short lifespan, with many dying within a few days after hatching due to predators or other causes.

Many people believe that hummingbirds are not really migratory, but rather that they simply move around North America looking for food year round - which is true to a certain extent, as every spring and fall we see them feeding in our yards. And while it's true that they eat nectar all year-round, what makes them different from other birds is that they can fly long distances to find food, which means that they need to be able to get there before the food becomes too scarce. This is why they travel across oceans and deserts to get to where they can find their favorite foods.

Hummingbirds are native to South America, although they aren't found on every continent. The two largest groups are the Andean hummers (found in parts of South America) and the Caribbean hummers (found in parts of Central America). There are three subgroups within each of these two groups: Andean broad-bills (which are larger than the others), Andean ruby-throats (which are smaller than the others) and tropical emeralds (smallest of all).

Andean hummers

This group consists of the Andean swiftlets, mountain swiftlets, rufous-collared swiftlet and the giant swallowtail. The Andean swiftlets live in the mountains of Peru and Bolivia, where they build nests in the crevices of cliffs. These birds only visit areas that experience high winds, because they use their feet to flap themselves up to the nest. The Andean swiftlets are the smallest of the group, and are usually seen perched on trees or shrubs near waterfalls. Their nests are made of a mixture of mud and saliva, and can hold up to twenty eggs, though the average clutch size is six.

Mountain swiftlets live in mountainous regions of Nepal and Bhutan. They build their nests in caves, tree holes and crevices, using strands of hair from their own bodies to anchor the structure. Mountain swiftlets are actually larger than the Andean swiftlets and the giant swallowtail, and can easily be identified by the large dark spots on their wings.

Rufous-collared swiftlets live in the forests of northern Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. They build their nests on branches of trees, and can hold up to twenty eggs per clutch. Because they're usually seen during the nesting season, they are rarely spotted away from home.

Giant swallowtails are the largest of the group, living in areas throughout Asia, Africa and Oceania. The swallows' nests are built on trees, and the babies are fed milk from their mother's crop until they are ready to fledge. Each nest has a hole in the side of the tree, which allows the parents to enter and check on the young ones. The giant swallowtail only has four tail feathers, with the rest being white.

Caribbean hummers

This group includes the Cuban emerald, scarlet-throated carib, yellow bellied amazons and the green aracari. All of these birds except the green aracari are endemic to the Caribbean islands, making this group of hummingbirds the only non-American species in the Americas.

Cuban emeralds live in Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. They build their nests on vertical walls in houses and buildings, laying their eggs on horizontal shelves above ground level. Each nest contains between ten and fifteen eggs, and is lined with lichens and mosses.

Scarlet-throated caribs live on the island of Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), and build their nests in hollowed out trees. Like the Cuban emerald, they lay their eggs on shelves above ground level, leaving the nest to return later to collect the chicks. The caribs are a little bigger than the Cuban emerald, and like the green aracari, have only four tail feathers.

Yellow bellied amazons live in Trinidad, Tobago and the Lesser Antilles. They build their nests on the branches of palm trees, and lay their eggs in open cup shaped depressions called oropendolas, which are located on the outer edges of leaves. The nests contain anywhere from three to ten eggs, and are lined with plant fibers.

Green aracaris live in Brazil and Paraguay, and are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds. Green aracaris do not construct nests, instead choosing to roost in trees. They are among the largest members of the family, with males weighing up to seven ounces (200 grams), and females measuring up to 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) in length.

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