The Green Violetear – Terry Thormin
Back in 2008 I spent three weeks in Costa Rica, visiting three different lodges and spending about a week in each, concentrating on photographing the wildlife. One of my goals was to photograph a good variety of hummingbirds and hopefully get some in-flight shots. At the time I was using a Canon Powershot S5 IS, one of the high zoom point-and-shoot cameras, so I was not sure just how good it would be for in-flight shots of hummingbirds. Fortunately I made the decision to get a good flash just before I left, and this made a huge difference in my photography.
For this blog I have chosen one species of hummingbird, the Green Violetear. This is a hummingbird of montane forests and the only place I found it on this visit was at Savegre Mountain Lodge high up in the cloud forest south of San Jose. Here it was a common visitor to the many feeders and was often seen sitting in nearby bushes.
The Green Violetear is a tropical hummingbird ranging from the mountains of central Mexico south through the Andes to Bolivia. It also fairly regularly wanders north into North America where it is almost annual in Texas and is casual through much of eastern North America. There is a single record for Alberta from 1994, and this is the most distant extralimital record for the species. I remember this bird clearly because although I did not see it, I was on the adjudicating committee that reviewed the record.
At Savegre the bird was easily photographed as it came to the feeders. As much as possible I tried to photograph it without the feeder being visible, and I managed to succeed on a number of occasions.
The violet “ears” are not ears of course, but rather longer ear covert feathers behind the eyes. Most of the time these feathers lay flat against the side of the head, but when the birds are acting aggressively they flare the feathers out from the sides of the head. This species, like so many hummingbirds can be quite territorial around a food source, and it was not uncommon to see dogfights between individuals. On one occasion I was lucky to get a photo of two birds engaging in a dog fight and in this photo you can clearly see the flared ear feathers on the upper bird.
During the course of my visit to Costa Rica I managed to photograph 23 species of hummingbirds, 22 of them of a quality good enough that I included them in a special hummingbird gallery. If you would like to see more of my hummingbird photographs, you can find them here.