The Mexican state of Oaxaca is home to a wide diversity of hummingbird species. With varied habitats including pine-oak forests, cloud forests, and tropical deciduous forests, Oaxaca provides ideal conditions for these small, colorful birds. In total, over 50 species of hummingbirds have been recorded in Oaxaca. Here is an overview of some of the most notable Oaxaca hummingbird species:
The Blue-throated Hummingbird (Lampornis clemenciae) is a striking species with turquoise gorget feathers on the throat. Males have a black face mask and tail with glittering green upperparts. Females are similar but less vibrantly colored. This species is common in pine-oak and tropical deciduous forests in Oaxaca. It feeds on nectar from flowers such as lantana, salvia, and honeysuckle.
With its distinct white forecrown, the Berylline Hummingbird (Amazilia beryllina) is easy to identify. Adult males have an iridescent green back, rufous tail, and a splash of cinnamon-rufous on the sides. Females lack the bold white crown patch. This hummingbird inhabits dry thorn-scrub forests and desert edges in Oaxaca’s arid regions. It gets nectar from flowers like ocotillo, chuparosa, and agave.
The aptly named Plain-capped Starthroat (Heliomaster constantii) is identified by its plain brown cap, contrasting with an iridescent throat patch. Males have a striking purple-blue throat surrounded by white, while females have a lighter gray-white throat. This species favors arid tropical scrub and deciduous forests. It feeds on nectar from flowers like firecracker plant, cardinal flower, and agave.
True to its name, the Dusky Hummingbird (Cynanthus sordidus) has drab, grayish-brown plumage. The male has a slightly brighter purple-streaked throat. This species inhabits the understory of deciduous oak and pine-oak forests in Oaxaca. It feeds on nectar from flowers of trees like avocado and pochote.
With an exceptionally wide bill adapted for feeding on large flowers, the Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris) is a specialist nectar feeder. Males are glittering green above with a metallic bluish throat and breast. Females are duller green, with white underparts. This species favors tropical deciduous and thorn-scrub forests. It feeds on nectar from large-flowered plants like amate fig trees.
The Long-billed Starthroat (Heliomaster longirostris) is named for its exceptionally long, decurved bill. Males have an iridescent purple throat patch bordered with white. Females have a paler white throat with some gray streaks. It inhabits tropical deciduous forest, forest edges, and gardens, feeding on nectar from flowers like salvia, honeysuckle, and coral vine.
True to its name, the Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird (Tilmatura dupontii) has bright white-tipped outer tail feathers. The male is iridescent green above with a glittering purple throat, while the female is duller with a pale gray throat. Found in pine-oak and cloud forests, it feeds on small flowers such as columbine and honeysuckle.
The Cinnamon Hummingbird (Amazilia rutila) is aptly named for its cinnamon-rufous underparts and green upperparts. The male has an iridescent reddish-orange throat. The female is similar but has a pale throat with fine streaks. Found in tropical deciduous forests and thorn-scrub, it visits nectar sources like orchids, salvia, and agave.
The tiny Bumblebee Hummingbird (Atthis heloisa) lives up to its name, resembling a buzzing bumblebee in size and sound. Males are iridescent green all over with a purple-red gorget, while females lack the bright gorget. It inhabits pine-oak and cloud forests in highland areas. This species gets nectar from small flowers like paintbrushes and salvias.
The White-eared Hummingbird (Hylocharis leucotis) is aptly named for the male’s bold white ear tufts. Males also have an iridescent turquoise throat and emerald green plumage. Females lack the white tufts and have duller plumage. This species inhabits cloud forests and humid pine-oak forests. It feeds on nectar from many flowering plants and epiphytes.
The colorful Wine-throated Hummingbird (Atthis ellioti) lives up to its name with the male’s vivid wine-red throat bordered by white. Females are duller green with a cream and gray throat. Found in cloud forests and pine-oak forests, it favors small tubular flowers of shrubs and epiphytes.
The aptly named Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) is one of the most striking species, with its huge vibrant green body and iridescent violet-blue gorget. Females are smaller and duller. This large hummingbird inhabits pine-oak and fir forests in Oaxaca’s mountains. It gets nectar from large flowers like jacaranda and amate fig trees.
In summary, Oaxaca is a true hotspot of hummingbird diversity, home to over 50 recorded species inhabiting a wide range of forest ecosystems. The small size and specialized adaptations of hummingbirds allow them to thrive and diversify in the mountains of southern Mexico. Continued habitat conservation will be important for protecting these captivating birds and the native flowers they depend on in Oaxaca.