Talamanca Hummingbird Species

The Talamanca hummingbird is named after the Talamanca Mountains in Costa Rica where it was first discovered. It is one of over 300 species of hummingbirds found in the New World. Hummingbirds are unique birds that have the ability to hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings up to 80 times per second. Their small size, dazzling colors, and aerial agility make them one of the most captivating birds to observe.

Physical Description

The Talamanca hummingbird measures around 9-10 centimeters in length and weighs 4-5 grams on average. The male has vibrant iridescent purple on its throat that extends down towards its chest. When the light hits just right, the purple throat appears to glow. The color results from the refraction of light through special platelet nanostructures in the feathers. The back and head are an iridescent green. The tail feathers are rufous-colored with a bold black subterminal band. The female is similar to the male but has a lighter whitish throat and lacks the bold rufous coloring on the tail.

Habitat and Range

The Talamanca hummingbird is found along the high-elevation slopes of the Talamanca Mountains and Central Volcanic Mountain Range in Costa Rica and western Panama. It occurs at elevations between 2400-3300 meters where the climate is cool and humid. Typical habitat consists of forest edges, clearings, and roadsides with abundant flowers and feeding plants. Climate change threatening its high-elevation habitat has put the conservation status of the Talamanca hummingbird as near-threatened.

Feeding Habits

Like all hummingbirds, the Talamanca hummingbird has a very high metabolism. It feeds on nectar from flowering plants such as besleria, fuchsia, and Bomarea. Some favorite food plants include Centropogon talamancensis and Drymonia coccinea which have co-evolved with the Talamanca hummingbird. The long bill allows it to access nectar from long tubular flowers. In addition to nectar, the Talamanca hummingbird will eat small insects for essential protein. It uses its split tongue to catch insects in mid-air or gleans them from leaves and branches.

Breeding and Nesting

The breeding season for the Talamanca hummingbird coincides with the rainy season from May to August. The males will perform elaborate courtship displays, flying in loops and dives to impress the females. Once paired, the female will build a small cup-shaped nest out of soft plant fibers, feathers, moss and lichens. Spider webs and silk are used to bind the materials together and attach the nest to a branch. The eggs are pea-sized and white in color. The female incubates the two eggs for about 16-19 days. The chicks hatch with eyes closed and no feathers. They depend completely on the female for food and care. They will fledge from the nest in 23-26 days.

Behavior and Vocalizations

The Talamanca hummingbird is pugnacious and territorial, aggressively defending its feeding grounds from intruders. Males will emit shrill chip notes and dive bomb other males or birds that stray too close. Both males and females produce a sharp “staccato” call made up of “tsip” notes to communicate. One unique behavior is that the Talamanca hummingbird bathes several times a day by flying through waterfalls and stream spray in its mountain habitat. It meticulously preens its feathers to keep them in good condition.


Unlike many northern hummingbird species, the Talamanca hummingbird does not migrate and resides year-round in the same general area. It may make minor elevational movements to follow the blooming of nectar plants but does not make any major migrations. This is likely because its high mountain habitat provides a stable supply of food year-round.

Threats and Conservation

A combination of habitat loss and climate change pose the biggest threats to the Talamanca hummingbird. Deforestation in parts of its range has reduced suitable habitat. As temperatures increase, many plants are moving higher in elevation, causing habitat loss at lower elevations. Introduced bird species also compete with the Talamanca hummingbird for food resources. Steps needed for conservation include habitat protection, maintaining connectivity between protected areas, monitoring populations, and managing climate change impacts. Ecotourism focused on the Talamanca hummingbird can also raise awareness and funding for conservation.

Significance to Ecosystem

As a pollinator, the Talamanca hummingbird plays an important role in its ecosystem. As it feeds on nectar, pollen gets carried on its bill and head to fertilize the next flowers it visits. This pollination service allows many plants in the Talamanca hummingbird’s habitat to reproduce. Because some plants rely exclusively on the Talamanca hummingbird for pollination, the health of these plants and the hummingbird are closely linked. Any threats to the hummingbird populations could ripple through the ecosystem.


Few birds capture the imagination like tiny hummingbirds. The Talamanca hummingbird is one of the most exquisite with its vibrant colors and energetic flight. While small, it has adapted to thrive in the cool mountaintops of Central America. This species faces an uncertain future due to climate change and habitat loss. Protecting its high elevation habitat and developing more sustainable policies are key to ensuring the survival of the Talamanca hummingbird. With proper conservation, future generations can continue to marvel at its aerial dances and rainbow-hued plumage.