Costa Rican Hummingbirds on Holiday at the Finca

grey mountain gem hummingbird
Grey-tailed Mt. Gem
Pity the Old World, which has no hummingbirds (called colibrí or guirrión here). One of our year 'round delights is to watch the hummers enjoying the purple-flowered hedge below, while we enjoy our daily holiday sipping our coffee on the balcony. 

The hedge is Stachytarpheta frantzii (aka Snakeweed, Porterweed, Foxtail, etc.), which is one of two native varieties in Costa Rica. It's planted all over the finca and draws in hummingbirds of many types. 

Though we don't have the hummer pileups like they do at La Georgina up on Cerro de La Muerte, we usually see 5 or 6 species regularly throughout the year. The Rufous-tailed hummers are more or less permanent residents, but the others come and go.

In the last week, however, two (maybe three) new holiday visitors have shown up; hummers we've never seen here before. 

The first, the Grey-tailed Mountain Gem, was spotted in the Porterweed down by the workshop. They are tiny, four inches from beak tip to tail tip, but seem completely non-plussed by the larger Rufous-tailed hummers that claim patches of the hedge as their own and defend their rights vigorously.

The second bird, just as tiny, now visits the purple flowers below the balcony several times a day. It's the more fascinating of the two due to its unusual appearance. It is the White-crested Coquette, an apt name for a creature so delicate and enticing.

White-crested Coquette hummingbird
White-crested Coquette

Sean refers to its unusual bouffant as its mohawk though they are actually feathers that grow from the sides of its head. Note, the tiny white cap feather on top of the head. 

Since this bird frequents the shady side of the house and is in constant motion, it's rather difficult to get a clear photograph. At first, he reminded us of the Sphinx Moth, the insect world's hummingbird impersonator, but the larger size and the "spikes" dispel that notion quickly. 

Like the Mountain Gem, this gurrión is not impressed much by the Rufous-tailed hummer's brusque attacks to drive it out. It comes back immediately or positions itself deeper in the foliage where the larger bird can't reach it.

Not sure if this is a Mt. Gem or not
A variant of a Mountain Gem?
The final newcomer is the one pictured at right. Again, similar in size and habits, but I can't quite place the markings in the only book on birds that I have, A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica (Comstock Book)

It has the eye-stripe and grey tail of the Mountain Gem, but the white gorget that nearly encircles the throat is what throws me off. Perhaps it's a Grey-tailed Mountain Gem or some other closely related variety, but it remains a puzzle. It stops by infrequently, so that's the only photograph I have of it.

I theorize that it's not a coincidence that these three small hummingbirds decided to make their holiday visits during the same week. Perhaps all three frequent similar habitats and move about together across Costa Rica like a tour group. Maybe they will decide to make our farm a permanent home or at least stay the summer. 

In any case, we feel lucky that they decided to visit and let us add to our list of distinct colibrí up here on the mountain.


  1. I saw a hummer very similar to your last photo, but only once. I have a lot of NA bird guides and am hoping it returns long enough to ID. My two CR bird books do not have anything like it.

    1. The mystery colibrí! I was hoping another book might show it, but maybe not. I'll keep my eyes peeled and hope the camera is nearby. Thanks for trying to ID it.

  2. Hi, Great post. I found you through the blog hop. Now following you.Please follow back on GFC friends if you can. Be sure and check out my new Blog Hop that we just started, It's Weekly Goals Link Up. It's a great way to stay on track. Have a great day. :) Here's the link in case you want to check it out. Thanks again

  3. Thanks for sharing the nice information. I love all pictures of hummingbirds. I want to see them.
    Cuba holidays - Havana city

  4. That hummingbird with the white gorget al the way around the back intrigues me. I've never seen anything like it. We have been photographing the hummingbirds of Costa Rica for three years now and expect to be back in April. Would love to have a closer look.
    Cindy Walpole

    1. I haven't seen it since, but I hope the camera is nearby if it visits again. Keeping my eye out for it!


Thanks so much for your comment! - Casey