Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tlacatl): Amazilia colirrufa; Ariane à ventre gris; Braunschwanzamazilie
The Rufous-tailed Hummingbird is probably the commonest hummer in the country and thus is taken as the standard by which all others of the more than 50 species found in Costa Rica are to be measured. It is found in all regions and at even the highest elevations. At 4″ in size it is considered a ‘medium-sized’ hummingbird. It has a repetitive early morning twitter, delivered from a perch, that I rarely hear at other times of the day.
Male birds can be recognized by their red bills, particularly the upper mandible, which is never red in the female.
It is a very pugnacious species that spends much energy chasing competitors, mostly of the same species, away from its food sources.
As with all hummingbirds, plumage can vary depending on the light. However, the female Rufous-tailed can be distinguished from the male if the upper mandible is clearly seen, as in the sequence below:
Nests are tiny but beautifully constructed. Even though there is probably more than one nest in my garden throughout most of the year, I have rarely been able to locate them. John has had better luck, finding the one in the next image at the Refugio La Marta:
….and this one in his garden at Santa Rosa de Turrialba:
In our area, as in many other parts of the country, the locals call this particular hummingbird species el gurrión. This comes from the Spanish word for ‘sparrow’, el gorrión. Everyday names for birds are not be relied upon because they vary from region to region in all countries of the world, and owing to the possible confusion Costa Rican birdwatchers very sensibly use either the Latin binomial or, in some cases, the accepted English term. Strangely, and despite a couple of hours of research, I have not yet discovered to my satisfaction the origin of the Latin name for the genus Amazilia. The species name tzacatl also has a touch of mystery. It comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs and of other Nahua indigenous groups to the north of Costa Rica. It means ‘person’, ‘human being’ or ‘man’.
See My Pages for my San Antonio Checklist recording all my local hummingbird sightings.
See Stiles & Skutch (A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica) for fairly authoritative Spanish names for Costa Rican species.