Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bulletin 236 - Ecuador #1 - Hummingbirds

I just spent 10 days birding southern Ecuador with an amazing guide, Pablo Andrade, who I found on BirdingPal. His preplanned tour takes you to all 3 southern Ecuador provinces with stays at Buenaventura Reserve, Tapichalaca Reserve and Copalinga Lodge in that order. Buenaventura is on the west slope of the Andes at elevations of 1200 to 4200 feet. Tapichalaca is in the cloud forest of the eastern slope at 8000 feet, and Copalinga is also on the east slope adjacent to Podocarpus Nat'l Park at an elevation of 3000 feet. The accommodations were all excellent and the food got better as we went along with the meals at Copalinga like being in a European bistro. The couple who own Copalinga are Belgian, so it was no surprise.

Well what about the birds? Ecuador is a small country on the Pacific Ocean at the equator. It is between Arizona and Nevada is size at just under 110,000 sq miles. But it has a huge bird list with just under 1700 species (130 species hummers!). This was my first trip to Ecuador and it was a blow-out - 2 Tinamous, 35 hummers, 7 antpittas, 4 cotingas. Most were seen, a few heard only and many photographed. Pablo was an excellent guide and worked diligently to locate the birds and try to bring them to good viewing and photo range. The lodges all had hummingbird feeders, banana feeders for tanagers and some had photo blinds with feeders for secretive birds.

Interestingly, many of the birds were confined to one slope or the other. Most of the Central American birds I was familiar with were on the Pacific (west) slope at Buenaventura. The birds on the east slope were mostly all new.

How is this for a hummingbird feeder? This monstrous feeder is actually a 12" flower pot saucer that they have rigged up in a metal ring. This was at Buenaventura.  They had 3 or 4 of these on the balcony and there were probably 100 hummers of various species flitting around and perching on the nearby branches.

Hummingbird Feeder - Buenaventura Reserve Ecuador

The Amazilia genus of midsized hummingbirds has numerous species with 2 in the USA (Buff-bellied and Violet-crowned). They typically have a partially red lower mandible and the sexes are similar. One bird is actually called the Amazilia Hummingbird (Amazilia amazilia). The bird was on the Pacific coast on the drive to Buenaventura the first day.

Amazilia Hummingbird
The cute Andean Emerald (Amazilia franciae) at Buenaventura is bright green above and snow white below.

Andean Emerald
The Glittering-throated Emerald (Amazilia fimbriata) was at Copalinga. He really did have a glittering throat!

Glittering-throated Emerald
The heliangelus genus of larger hummingbirds are called sunangels. They are in montane forests and often have short bills and forked tails. These were all at Tapichalaca. The male Flame-throated Sunangel (Heliangelus micraster) has a bright orange throat.
Flame-throated Sunangel - male

The Amethyst-throated Sunangel (Heliangelus amethysticollis) obviously has a pink-purplish throat. The female here just has a central purple patch.

Amesthyst-throated Sunangel - female
The Purple-throated Sunangel (Heliangelus viola) has a dark purple throat. But the female here just has a dull striped throat. They also have a blue crown.

Purple-throated Sunangel - female

Thorntails are hummingbirds in which the males have long thin extensions to their tails. I had seen the Green Thorntail (Discosura conversi) in Costa Rica but I needed better photos. There were literally a dozen birds all day long at the feeders at Buenaventura. They also have a white stripe across the lower back.

Green Thorntail - male
His cousin, the Wire-crested Thorntail (Discosura popelairii) was on the east slope at Copalinga. He has a spiky crest as well as a spiky tail.

Wire-crested Thorntail - male
Violetears are hummingbirds in the genus colibri. Colibri is also the Spanish word for hummingbird. The Brown Violetear (Colibri delphinae) I had seen before but needed better photos.There were several at the feeders at Buenavista. Interestingly, as I studied them, I noticed that the violet feathers on the sides of the neck would be flared out when another hummer approached, I guess as a warning not to come too close.

Brown Violetear
On the other slope at Copalinga was the Sparkling Violetear (Colibri coruscans).

Sparkling Violetear
The  male Golden-tailed Sapphire (Chrysuronia oenone) has a blue head and gold tail. This bird was at Copalinga.

Golden-tailed Sapphire - male

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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