Shining Honeycreepers Brighten up a Costa Rica Birding Adventure

October 02, 2012
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On your next Costa Rica ecotour with International Expeditions keep an eye out for the shining honeycreeper. This diminutive tanager is found throughout Central America and in parts of Colombia, and is easily recognizable due to its prominent royal blue coloration.

Shining honeycreepers are similar in appearance to red-legged honeycreepers that inhabit the same regions, but you can tell them apart because red-legged honeycreepers have red legs, blue throats and light blue tufts of feathers atop their heads. Shining honeycreepers have yellow legs and their heads are the same solid blue as the rest of their bodies, save the tails, throats, eyes and tips of wings, which are black. Their narrow black beaks also have a slight curvature.

Females have a different coloration — mottled green and blue with a creamy yellow breast — that helps them blend in better when they are nesting. They build shallow cup-shaped nests in the crooks of tree branches and generally incubate two eggs at a time. The females are mostly responsible for building the nests, but males have been spotted helping out.

It takes about two weeks for shining honeycreeper eggs to hatch, at which point both parents will help to feed their babies. They start out eating mostly insects, but after a short period of time, the mother and father birds start bringing berries and seeds to their young. About two weeks after they hatch, the nestlings are ready to fly the coop.

Much like their coloration, the birds' calls vary by their sex as well. Males utter repeating clicking noises, while females have a sustained high-pitched call. The birds feed on nectar, berries and insects they find in the rainforest canopy, and they typically travel in pairs or small groups. So, if you see one shining honeycreeper during your nature travel excursion, you're likely to see others nearby.

They're only about four inches in length, so you may not spot them right away, but keep your eyes on the forest canopy to spot these tiny blue birds. In Costa Rica, Panama and northeastern Colombia, these birds tend to have shorter beaks than those found north of these areas.