Two of our good friends live just 2 km away in San Rafael de Santa Cruz. The elevation is about the same as here in San Antonio, but the proximity of the Espino Blanco Reserve to San Rafael, coupled with Sue and Wiet’s close attention to their hummingbird feeders, means that many species turn up there that I have never seen here in the village. It’s always a treat to visit there for food, friendship, and the amazing hummingbird display.
Until this week I had been able to identify 9 different hummingbird species in San Rafael. This week’s Brown Violetear (Colibri delphinae) made it ten. Sue was able to make the identification and alerted me with her first photos. I shot over there like a bolt when the bird reappeared the next day at the appointed hour, around 3 pm, and gleefully added it to my life list. It was not a species that I expected to see since it is rated uncommon and is normally found between 400 and 1100 m on the Caribbean side. We are closer to 1300 m elevation.
It must be said immediately that this is not the most beautiful hummingbird in the world. Initial impression is of a medium-sized, dull brown hummer, with a noticeable broad white line leading down and back from the bill. The violet ear-patch is not immediately apparent. These muted tones are in stark contrast to the larger and more colourful White-necked jacobins and Green-breasted mangos (mangoes?) that hog the feeders. Actually, in contrast to Wiet, who lives a little lower down in San Rafael, Sue also has the Crowned Woodnymph in good numbers. It took me a good while to record that particular species in San Antonio, where it remains scarce.
The Brown Violetear sits on a hanging plant very close to one of the feeders (territorial?), and when it feeds it perches. This behaviour separates it from the rest of Sue’s hummers with the exception of the larger and more elongated Green-crowned brilliant, one or two of which are usually present. The Rufous-tailed hummingbird, so numerous here in San Antonio, is of course present at the San Rafael feeders, but in surprisingly small numbers.
I have, on one occasion, found a Violetear in San Antonio, the Green Violetear (Colibri thalassinus), a much more brightly coloured highland species. If tomorrow brings sunshine, I hope to see the Brown Violetear in better light, with glistening ear-patch and throat, though Sue’s latest photo does a pretty good job.