Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ecuador: Part II

One group of birds Ecuador has in abundance are the hummingbirds (family: Trochilidae). If you live in the Eastern United States you typically can only see one species of hummingbird, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). Rarely one may encounter a second species, the Rufous Hummingbird (Selaphorus rufus) or one of a handful of other rare vagrants from the Western US. However, Northwestern South America is the world hotspot for hummingbird diversity. Hummingbirds are confined to the Americas and of the more than 300 hummingbird species over 120 species can be found in Ecuador.

During our trip to Ecuador we saw more than 30 species of hummingbirds. These included large showy species such as the Collared Inca (Coeligena torquata) to species in which males sport spectacular, long tail feathers like the Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocerus kingi) to smaller iridescent green hummingbirds like the Andean Emerald (Agytria franciae) and the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl, see photo left). The Andes accounts for much of the diversity in hummingbird species, and diversity in other organisms. One can encounter different assemblages of hummingbirds at different altitudes. One can encounter 10 species at a site at 1,000 meters and then a completely different 10 species when one moves to 2,000 meters. Also, the eastern and western slopes of the Andes will be home to different hummingbird species.

This amazing diversity draws hummingbird enthusiasts from around the globe. Hummingbird feeding stations are common in Ecuador, particularly in tourist areas, making for some very relaxed birding ticking off species from the comfort of a deck while sipping Ecuadorian coffee, or in my case a cold Coca-Cola. Cincinnati Museum Center, with the help of the Jocotoco Foundation and the Neblina Forest birding tour company, is currently planning future museum led ecotours to Ecuador where museum patrons can see the amazing biodiversity Ecuador has to offer. Until then check out the video below of a hummingbird feeder at the Jocotoco Foundation's Tapichalaca Reserve. Enjoy!

video

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