The Olive-spotted Hummingbird (Amazilia viridifrons) is a small, colorful hummingbird found in Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. With its vibrant green plumage accented by blue patches and an olive-colored spot on its back, this species is one of the most striking members of the hummingbird family. In this article, we’ll explore the identification, range, habitat, diet, behavior, breeding, and conservation status of this beautiful bird.
The Olive-spotted Hummingbird reaches about 9-10 cm in length and weighs around 5-7 grams. The adult male has brilliant emerald green upperparts from its head to tail. The throat is also metallic green, unlike the red or orange throats of some other hummingbirds. The underparts are grayish white with a blue-tinted patch on the breast. As the name suggests, there is a distinctive olive-colored spot in the center of the back. The relatively short bill is straight and black. Females are similar, but less vibrant overall with more gray on the throat and breast. Juveniles appear duller than adults without the blue breast band.
This hummingbird resembles the Green-breasted Mango, but the mango lacks the olive spot on the back. The Violet-headed Hummingbird has a more extensive blue breast band than the Olive-spotted. The steely legs, short bill, emerald hood, and distinctive markings help identify this bird.
Range and Habitat
The Olive-spotted Hummingbird is found along the Pacific slope of Costa Rica and Panama. Its range extends from southwestern Costa Rica through western Panama. It occurs in foothills and lowlands up to 1500 m elevation. This species prefers forest edges, second growth, plantations, gardens, and semi-open areas. It is also common in the canopy of tall trees in clearings and along streams.
This hummingbird has adapted well to habitat disturbance and can thrive in a variety of modified landscapes. Agricultural areas, residential gardens, and even urban parks provide habitat as long as there are nectar sources available. The development of altered habitats likely helped expand the Olive-spotted Hummingbird’s range in the late 20th century.
Like all hummingbirds, the Olive-spotted Hummingbird feeds mainly on nectar from flowering plants. It favors the nectar of both wildflowers and cultivated ornamental plants. Some favorite food sources include Heliconia, ginger, banana, and coffee flowers. This species is strongly attracted to the color red and seeks out red blooms. The long, specialized bill and tongue allow the bird to retrieve nectar from flowers.
The hummingbird also consumes small insects and spiders to obtain essential protein. By hunting small prey, the bird takes advantage of another energy source to fuel its high metabolism. Insects are plucked from leaves, branches, and even spiderwebs. Some uncommon food sources include tree sap and honeydew produced by aphids or other insects. Plant fibers are also occasionally eaten.
The Olive-spotted Hummingbird is solitary for much of the year, only associating with others during courtship displays or lek breeding aggregations. Males are highly territorial, using aerial displays to advertise territory ownership and evict intruders. Sitting on an exposed perch, the male flies up approximately 4 meters and then swoops steeply down in a U-shaped arc while uttering sharp chip notes. This display is repeated constantly throughout the day during the breeding season.
Sometimes, males gather in loose leks of up to 12 birds. Here they engage in competitive displays for the attention of females. The female constructs the nest on her own but relies on the male to help defend the territory from predators and other hummingbirds. The species may also join mixed flocks of foraging hummingbirds moving between nectar sources in the nonbreeding season.
In Costa Rica and western Panama, breeding occurs primarily from March to June during the dry season. The female Olive-spotted Hummingbird builds a small cup nest on a horizontal tree branch, often overhanging a stream. The nest is beautifully constructed using plant down bound with spider webs for a soft interior lining. Lichen and moss camouflage the exterior.
Once the nest is complete, the female lays two tiny white eggs. She incubates the eggs alone for 15-19 days. The chicks hatch with closed eyes and almost no feathers. Both parents feed the chicks with regurgitated nectar and insects. After about 20-26 days, the young leave the nest. The female may raise two broods in a season. Males establish a breeding territory each season but may mate with multiple females.
With its relatively wide habitat tolerance and expanding range, the Olive-spotted Hummingbird remains common across its range. The IUCN Red List categorizes this species as Least Concern. Population trends appear stable, and the bird adapts readily to human-altered environments. As long as suitable flowers exist, this hummingbird persists.
However, habitat loss is still a potential concern for the future. Rapid development and deforestation could impact more sensitive high elevation populations. Climate change and drought may also stress nectar availability in certain areas. Providing nectar feeders and maintaining natural and ornamental flowers will support these resilient, captivating hummingbirds. More research is needed to track populations over time and protect key breeding and foraging sites. With sustained habitat conservation, the beautiful Olive-spotted Hummingbird will continue to brighten forests and gardens.
With its radiant emerald plumage and lively displays, the Olive-spotted Hummingbird adds a special charm to the landscapes of Costa Rica and Panama. This species has adapted to follow flower nectar across altered habitats from forest edges to urban gardens. While currently thriving, we must maintain adequate flowering resources and nest sites for the future. Sustaining intact forests as well as modified habitat mosaics will ensure the continued survival of these tiny, shining hummingbirds. Protecting small birds like the Olive-spotted Hummingbird preserves an element of magic in the natural world.