Garnet-throated Hummingbird Species

The garnet-throated hummingbird is a medium-sized hummingbird native to the forests and woodlands of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. With its glittering ruby-red gorget and bright emerald body, it is one of the most stunning hummingbirds in Central America.


The garnet-throated hummingbird measures between 9-10 cm in length and weighs around 5-7 grams. The male has an iridescent emerald green back and crown, with a bright white breast. The most distinctive feature is the male’s shimmering ruby-red throat, from which it gets its name. When the light catches it at certain angles, it appears to glow like a garnet gemstone. The female lacks the red gorget and is less vibrantly colored overall, with a pale gray throat and breast, emerald back, and white tips on the tail feathers.

Both the male and female have a straight black bill and white postocular spots behind the eyes. Their tail is forked. Juveniles resemble adult females but have buffy edges to their tail feathers. The garnet-throated hummingbird produces a persistent high-pitched squeaking call, along with the usual hum created by its rapidly beating wings.

Habitat and Distribution

The garnet-throated hummingbird is found in tropical lowland forests, woodlands, second growth, semi-open areas, plantations, and gardens. Its elevational range is from sea level up to 1500 m. It occurs on both the Caribbean and Pacific slopes from southern Mexico through Central America.

In Mexico, it is common along both coasts. Its range extends south along the Caribbean slope to northern Honduras. Along the Pacific slope, it occurs from Chiapas through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and western Panama. It is replaced by the related magnificent hummingbird in parts of Costa Rica and Panama.


Like all hummingbirds, the garnet-throated hummingbird feeds on nectar from flowers using its specialized long bill and tongue. It favors flowers with reddish blooms, including poinsettia, hibiscus, and passionflowers. It also feeds on small insects for essential proteins. The garnet-throat often seeks out bugs around leaves and branches, hawking for insects in flight or gleaning them from foliage.


The breeding season for garnet-throated hummingbirds coincides with the wet season from about May to September. As in other hummingbirds, the males establish and defend breeding territories using aerial displays and aggressive behavior. The garnet-throated male performs a courtship display, flying in repeated U-shaped patterns to attract females.

Females build a small cup-shaped nest out of plant down, spider webs, lichens, and sometimes moss. It is attached to a tree branch, usually 3-20 feet above ground. The female lays two tiny white eggs and incubates them for 15-19 days. The chicks hatch with their eyes sealed shut and almost no feathers. They are cared for by the female alone. They fledge at about 20-26 days old.


The garnet-throated hummingbird is generally not considered migratory. However, its movements are poorly understood. It appears to make seasonal elevational movements, moving to higher elevations during the breeding season then descending to lower levels in the non-breeding period. There may be some localized migration across its range.

Conservation Status

The garnet-throated hummingbird has a very large range and is described as fairly common in most areas. Its population is believed to be stable, so it is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss from deforestation is the major threat, although this adaptable species also occurs in logged areas, second growth, and gardens if some trees remain. As with many tropical hummingbirds, more research is needed on its population trends and ecology.

Interesting Facts

– The garnet-throated hummingbird is known as the “forest gem” in Costa Rica for its jewel-colored gorget.

– Males perform aerial courtship displays up to 20 meters in the air, possibly to avoid predation while attracting females.

– Hummingbirds have the fastest metabolic rate of any vertebrate, with heart rates up to 1,260 beats per minute and breathing rates of 250 breaths per minute during flight.

– To conserve energy overnight, hummingbirds go into a hibernation-like state called torpor where their metabolic rate slows dramatically and body temperature drops.

– Relative to their size, hummingbirds have the largest brain of all birds. Their brains make up 4.2% of their total body weight, compared to just 0.2% for ostriches.

In summary, the garnet-throated hummingbird is a striking tropical hummingbird adorned with iridescent reddish and green plumage. This mid-sized hummingbird inhabits forested areas from Mexico to Panama, where it feeds on nectar and small insects. The colorful male performs aerial displays to attract females during the breeding season. Though vibrantly plumed, the garnet-throat exhibits typical hummingbird behaviors like torpor to conserve energy. This adaptable and resilient species remains common throughout its range.