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January 21, 2011 / stephanie

Ecuador Adventures 6: Brilliants & Emeralds

Violet-bellied Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are only found in the Western hemisphere, and if you want to find a lot of them, well, I think you have to go to Ecuador. Ecuador has an astounding 130+ species of Hummingbirds (Trochilidae), falling behind only the Flycatcher family (Tyrannidae) in species diversity. During my stay at La Casita, we only banded 8 species (Violet-bellied Hummingbird, Andean Emerald, Baron’s Hermit, Speckled Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Green-crowned Brilliant, Band-tailed Barbthroat, & Green-crowned Woodnymph), but we also spotted other hummers such as the Brown Violet-ear, Little Woodstar, Esmereldas Woodstar, and Blue-chested Hummingbird. In order to get the best sampling of what hummingbirds were using the area, we placed sugar-water feeders in two locations along the ridge. So after a full morning of banding, we trekked back into the woods and carefully watched our hummingbird feeders, taking notes of the birds and their behaviors. Hummingbirds are incredibly aggressive across the board and they can definitely make for some good entertainment as they are patrolling the feeders and chasing off competitors. The much larger Green-crowned Brilliant would sometimes dominate a feeder and was able to scare off potential intruders just by craning its neck and glaring at them. The Rufous-tailed Hummingbird liked to do laps around the feeder while emitting little chirp noises and madly fanning its tail. The Baron’s Hermit, with its awkwardly-long bill, would usually approach the feeder more hesitantly and then only stay for a short while. The bill being so long that the Baron was completely unable to perch at the feeder while drinking.

Green-crowned Brilliant at feeder

As far as birds go, hummingbirds definitely rank high in beauty as well as personality. It’s no wonder birders travel far and wide to see them. It’s also interesting to note how so many hummingbird species tended to gather in these higher-altitude areas. As you go down the mountains, the diversity drops. In the villages we only had one common species of hummingbird, the Amazilia Hummingbird. But hopefully with the help of others who love hummingbirds, money brought in by ecotourists can help to preserve these high & moist places and help protect the birds that live there.

Amazilia Hummingbird resting on a branch

Green-crowned Brilliant

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