Friday, April 30, 2010

Tandayapa: 22 Species of Hummers

Friday, April 9, 2010
Tandayapa, Ecuador

Tandayapa might be one of the places on earth approaching birder heaven. The central focus is the 22 species of hummingbirds spending their day at feeders distributed around a central commons area which also serves as an al fresco dining room.

We arrived the previous night in time for a well-prepared multi-course dinner -- something we would get used to in Ecuador -- and our introduction to many of the living jewels this region had to offer. All around the dining room/commons area were hummingbird feeders and, on every feeder, several hummingbirds, often several different species.

We had dinner surrounded by hummingbirds getting their last "licks" in before dark. As they slowly disappeared, we did as well, going up to our room for the night.

The following morning we awoke early and had breakfast with the hummingbirds at the feeders, as well as a Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Red-headed Barbet, and several types of Tanagers at the banana feeders a short distance downhill from the area. To be honest, we probably could have spent the day just sitting there. But there was more birding to do.

After breakfast we had some productive birding around the commons area. Of the birds in the area we saw what we thought to be two late birds: Blackburnian Warbler and Tropical Parula. We also had a couple of Woodcreepers and a Brown-capped Vireo.

While we were birding we heard a loud hummingbird "alarm call". Apparently hummingbirds have a "sentry" that keeps watch. When the alarm was called, the feeders emptied immediately. The cause: a Semicollared Hawk perched nearby. This is a hawk that eats hummingbirds (among other things). As it sat there, several hummingbirds perched nearby, keeping guard. I'm not quite sure what their little hummingbird minds were thinking. But the idea of such a system in the world of hummers was certainly something to think about.

I know the photo is a bit blurry. But it's a great illustration, with the hawk in the center and one of the brave hummingbirds on a nearby branch up in the left hand corner of the photo.

As usual, the Tanagers at the banana feeders were most impressive birds. We had spectacular views of Golden, Metallic-green, and Beryl-spangled Tanagers, and Northern Blue-winged Mountain Tanager.

We stayed in this area for the morning. After lunch we took a short trail leading to a forest overlook. It was a less birdy spot, but still offered us a fabulous bird: a Golden-headed Quetzal. After sitting at the end of the trail for a while, we returned to our room to pack up for our trip to Milpe. Before leaving we spent a bit more time at the feeders. It was a good thing too, since a new hummer came in during that time: a Violet-tailed Sylph -- one of my mainland target birds.

Now, I'm not sure how I go about choosing my target birds. Sometimes it's by looks, other times it's by interest. But the Sylph is a pretty spectacular bird, with its long, impressive tail with iridescent tail feathers. The Violet-tailed has a purple tail accented by bright azure blue "accent" marks. I've borrowed the following photo from, since ours seems to have disappeared in the black hole of cyberspace.

Of course, anyone who's a birder knows photos don't do these birds justice. It's only in person that we can appreciate how incredible nature's reality can be.

One of the things I love about birding (and nature, in general) is what you can learn by observing. One observation involved a White-sided Flowerpiercer. Flowerpiercers "cheat" flowers by nipping open their bottoms to access the nectar, not offering pollination in exchange for the food. While watching the Flowerpiercer work, I noticed it spending time among Impatiens planted in the area. I noticed the Impatiens had developed an appendage off the bottom, a tube that seemed like it was designed for just this purpose.

(I've used a photo of a similar species from Jorge told us the species is originally from New Zealand, so I'm not sure there's a co-evolution here. But it certainly seems like a good match of flower and bird, although I'm still not sure what benefit the flower gains from allowing the Flowerpiercer such access.

We left Tandayapa taking the "easier" trail down. I don't think I really saw much of a difference. But I know seeing 22 species of hummingbirds in less than 24 hours will definitely leave its impact.

The list:
Cattle Egret
Semicollared Hawk
Band-tailed Pigeon
Red-billed Parrot
White-whiskered Hermit
White-necked Jacobin
Brown Violetear
Green Violetear
Sparkling Violetear
Green Thorntail
Western Emerald
Green-crowned Woodnymph
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Andean Emerald
Purple-bibbed Whitetip
Empress Brilliant
Green-crowned Brilliant
Brown Inca
Buff-tailed Coronet
Booted Racket-tail
Violet-tailed Sylph
Purple-throated Woodstar
White-bellied Woodstar
Golden-headed Quetzal
Red-headed Barbet
Crimson-rumped Toucanet
Strong-billed Woodcreeper
Montane Woodcreeper
Uniform Antshrike
White-tailed Tyrannulet
Golden-crowned Flycatcher
Brown-capped Vireo
Swainson's Thrush
Blue-and-white Swallow
Tropical Parula
Blackburnian Warbler
Slate-throated Whitestart
Three-striped Warbler
White-sided Flowerpiercer
Thick-billed Euphonia
Orange-bellied Euphonia
Golden Tanager
Golden-naped Tanager
Metallic-green Tanager
Beryl-spangled Tanager
Northern Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Lemon-rumped Tanager
White-winged Tanager
White-winged Brush-Finch
Rufous-collared Sparrow

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