26 species of hummingbirds at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Costa Rica

waterfall diet


Our Hummingbird Garden attracts 26 different species of hummingbirds from Costa Rica, more species than any other in Costa Rica and quite possibly the world. Approximately 57 different hummingbirds have been reportedly seen in Costa Rica and it is possible to see over 40% of them here! Because you can stand just inches away from the feeders and our hummingbirds have no fear of humans our hummingbird garden is the best place in the world to photograph hummingbirds close up. If you arrive before 9:00 AM or after 4:00 PM you can feed them by hand with our specially designed hand feeding flower.

Below are the names of the hummingbirds you will find at our feeders:

English Common Name

Scientific Name

Spanish Common Name

Coppery headed emerald

Strite throated hermit

Black bellied hummingbird

ColibrГ­ hada occidental

Green- fronted lancebill

ColibrГ­ pico de lanza mayor

Fiery throated hummingbird

Green- breasted mango

Green- crowned brilliant

Hummingbirds are abundant around our feeders because they are in constant supply of food (sugar and water), which is similar to the nectar the birds obtain from flowers.

The mixture of four parts water to one part sugar gives the hummingbirds the proper nutrients they need to keep going (and going and going).

We have to be very careful that we have the exact mixture; otherwise the birds will become fat and unhealthy. Another concern is cavities (believe it or not) in their beaks from the sugar mixture. We also sterilize the feeders everyday to prevent the birds from contracting a fungus from dirty feeders.

When you approach the feeders you will find that the birds don’t seem too afraid of you. In fact, they almost seem a bit too friendly. Before opening the park, the owners would place feeders out and wait patiently for the birds to arrive. After almost three months they began to show up (thank goodness, we were almost running out of that ‘patience’) and kept coming back. Each year we see the same birds returning and bringing their young along with them. The more used to the birds we became, the more used to us they became as well.

Facts about Hummingbirds

  • Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world
  • For their size, hummingbirds have the largest heart & brain of all animals
  • Hummingbirds have no sense of smell
  • Hummingbird wings beat around 60 times per second
  • Hummingbird hearts beat from 500 to 1,200 times per minute
  • Hummingbirds are only found in North, Central and South America
  • Hummingbirds visit 2,000 to 5,000 flowers a day
  • Hummingbirds can consume twice their weight daily
  • Their color is produced by refraction of light, not by pigment
  • Their average speed is 45 miles per hour
  • Their tongues are twice the length of their bills
  • In addition to nectar, hummingbirds eat insects for protein
  • Hummingbirds cannot walk, only perch
  • Hummingbirds fly only 20% of the time

Courtship and Reproduction

Since hummingbirds are such competitive and solitary creatures, they are not lifetime maters. Hybrid mating is relatively rare among hummingbirds. It is often the female who begins looking for the male once she has chosen a location for her nest and started to build it.Males attract females by posing, flying in particular patterns and creating vocal and wing sounds. Sometimes they dive toward females, or fly back and forth before them, showing off the iridescence of their feathers.

The males also ‘possess’ territories rich in flowers and the females gain an ample food source in exchange for offering the male sole paternity rights. Intercourse is brief, though it may occur several times, but never for more than one day. The birds can actually mate while in mid-flight.

Once the act has been completed, the female hummingbird lays the eggs and then hatches them on her own. She usually chooses a location that is not in a most favorable feeding area, opting for peace and quiet, even if it means relying upon insects as the staple of her diet. The eggs are tiny, the size of jellybeans, and the average incubation is 16 days. Usually only two eggs are laid, a day apart, and the mother uses techniques to warm and shade them to maintain a constant 90 degree temperature until they are ready to hatch. It takes a little more than three weeks for hummingbird babies to grow feathers and reach their adult size, while their bills reach full size a bit later. At four weeks, the birds are ready to survive on their own.

Feeding Habits

Because hummingbirds have no sense of smell, they must find their food by sight. Young hummingbirds must learn to expect nectar from colored blossoms. Hummingbird bills are custom designed to match the shape and length of the blossoms from which they draw nectar. Bill shapes and lengths vary widely, but tend to be long and narrow, some being curved. Their tongues are twice as long as their bills.

The flowers hummingbirds use for nectar sources have evolved with them. To attract a hummingbird, a flower must be red, bloom in the daytime, be rich in nectar and lack any sort of landing pad thereby eliminating competition from other birds. Flowers without landing pads are accessible only by hummingbirds, which can hover and feed while hanging in the air. Other flowers such as trumpet or tubular shaped blossoms provide selective feeding for the hummingbirds since only the long, narrow bill of the hummingbird is able to access the succulent nectar.

Some hummingbirds feed from a single plant all day. Others have fixed feeding routes that cover large distances. They methodically fly in special patterns that define their territory.To survive, a hummingbird must consume more than its weight in food each day, which equates to between 6,000 and 12,000 calories per day. About 70% of this food comes in the form of liquefied sugar and the rest from insect protein.

A hummingbird’s diet consists of nectar, sap and insects. If insects are available, a hummingbird may eat hundreds of them in one day, they may even raid a spider’s web to eat a captured insect or the spider himself. The nectar mixture in our hummingbird feeders is comprised of one part sugar, four parts water. A higher sugar content could cause cavities in their bills and obesity. Most days the entire contents of our feeders will be completely consumed by late afternoon. The birds consume 50 pounds of sugar a week.

Survival of Hummingbirds

Hummingbird survival skills must be learned by the new adults on their own, including flying, searching for food, avoiding predators, bathing and grooming.


Territoriality among hummingbirds can become a crucial, even violent issue. The birds will stake out an area of nectar-rich flowering plants and defend it vehemently by dive-bombing and occasionally stabbing rivals with their beaks.

Predators include hawks, orioles, roadrunners, crows, jays and other large birds. Mice and cats can also represent a danger to baby hummingbirds. There have been cases of attacks on tiny hummingbirds by praying mantises and tarantulas. However, history shows that humans were its largest predators in the late nineteenth century when we killed millions of hummingbirds to use their feathers and bodies as ornaments on hats.

Males migrate about three weeks earlier than females. This may be that the males are protecting the females and their young from starvation by exploring unknown territories in advance.

Sleeping Habits

Because hummingbirds have very little down and body fat, they must rely on their metabolisms to keep them warm. To protect themselves from lower tempreratures at night, they go into a torpid state, meaning their normal body temperature of 86 degrees can drop to as low as 70 degrees, often matching the outside air. This ability allows them to conserve energy as their heartbeat slows from a daytime high of 1,200 beats a minute to 159 beats a minute.

Geographic Distribution

The 341 species in the hummingbird family, Trochilidae, are all confined to the Western Hemisphere. Their territory reaches all the way from South Alaska to the tip of South America, but most live along the equator in the rain forests of Colombia and Ecuador where flower nectar and insects are plentiful. Only 15 species of hummingbirds breed within the United State (most in western North America) and only the ruby-throated hummingbird is found seasonally east of the Mississippi. An increasing number of hummingbirds are beginning to winter in the southeastern United States, near the Gulf of Mexico.

Hummingbirds live at diverse altitudes, from the lowlands of the North America east coast to as high as 15,000 feet (4,572 m) in the Andes Mountains. Hummingbirds are not found in grassland plains, which lack sufficient nectar-bearing plants. Out of the 341 species of hummingbirds, 57 exist in Costa Rica and 26 are found here at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This is the most species diverse hummingbird garden in Costa Rica.

Hummingbirds as Pollinators

Much like the bee, the hummingbird seeks nectar from flowering plants. During the process of extracting the nectar from the flower tube, pollen clings to their bill and feathers. As they visit different flowers of the same species of plant fertilization occurs and seeds are produced.

Hummingbird and Heliconia Symbiosis
Heliconias in the American tropics rely exclusively on hummingbirds as pollinators. The large colorful flowers serve to visually attract the hummingbirds since they have no sense of smell. In most cases the size of the flower tube on the plant matches the exact size of the bill on the pollinating hummingbird. Certain Heliconias with deep flower tubes rely on a specific hummingbird with an extra long bill to pollinate them.

Legends of the Hummingbirds

These tiny, brilliantly colored birds are often the subjects of legends, myths, and superstitions. The hummingbird’s ability to disappear in the blink of an eye makes their fleeting appearances seem like hallucinations, and gives these birds a special, magical quality few other flying creatures posess. In several Native American cultures, their speedy flight figures in important religious myths, associating them with the wind, the rain, and other unstoppable natural forces of mysterious origin.

One Mayan legend holds that the hummingbird is actually the sun in disguise, appearing in birdlike form to seduce the moon. The most powerful Aztec god was associated with the hummingbird. His helmet, fastened to the back of his head, was the head of a hummingbird, making him appear half man, half bird. To this day, two popular but untrue legends and superstitions continue to surround these tiny birds. One, that the hummingbirds die each autumn, only to resurrect in the spring, and that the hummingbirds migrate across great bodies of water by hitching rides on the backs of geese.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *