Backyard Birds

Fiery-throated Hummingbirds

The Fiery-throated Hummingbird (Panterpe insignis) – also known as Irazu Hummingbird – is a common, medium-sized hummingbird that occurs naturally in in the mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama.

They are usually found in cloud forests at elevations of 1,400 m (4,600 feet) or above; as well as frequenting scrub at the woodland edges and clearings. 

Alternate (Global) Names

Spanish: Colibrí Garganta de Fuego, Colibrí Insigne … French: Colibri insigne … Italian: Colibrì goladifiamma, Colibrì golaflammea … German: Feuerkehlkolibri, Feuerkehl-Kolibri … Czech: kolib?ík ohnivobradý, Kolibrík ohnivý … Danish: Ildstrubet Kolibri … Finnish: Tulikurkkukolibri … Japanese: hinodohachidori … Dutch: Irazukolibrie, Irazu-kolibrie … Norwegian: Ildstrupekolibri … Polish: duszek kraterowy … Russian: ????????????? ??????? … Slovak: medovec horský … Swedish: Eldstrupekolibri 

Subspecies and Ranges

  • Panterpe insignis insignis (Cabanis and Heine, 1860) – nominate race
    • Found in North-central Costa Rica (Cordillera de Tilarán), south to extreme western Panama.
  • Panterpe insignis eisenmanni (Stiles, 1985)
    • Found in northern Costa Rica (Cordillera de Guanacaste).  

Fiery-throated Hummingbird (Panterpe insignis)


The Fiery-throated Hummingbird averages 11 cm or 4.3 inches in length and weighs about 5.7 g or 0.2 oz. It has a straight black bill and dusky-colored feet.

The adult Fiery-throated Hummingbird has iridescent green body plumage, a dark blue tail, and a white spot behind each eye. It has a brilliant blue crown, yellow-bordered coppery orange throat, and blue chest patch. Its sides and the back of the head are velvety black.

Both males and females look alike. Immature birds have rufous-colored fringes to their head feathers.

Hummingbirds are named after the humming sound made by the beat of their wings. Their wings make up to 100 beats per second, moving so rapidly that the naked eye cannot detect them. They are the only birds that can generate power on both the forward and backward wing strokes, which makes backward fly possible.

Nesting / Breeding

Hummingbirds are solitary in all aspects of life other than breeding; and the male’s only involvement in the reproductive process is the actual mating with the female. They neither live nor migrate in flocks; and there is no pair bond for this species.

Males court females by flying in a u-shaped pattern in front of them. He will separate from the female immediately after copulation. One male may mate with several females.

In all likelihood, the female will also mate with several males. The males do not participate in choosing the nest location, building the nest or raising the chicks.

The female Fiery-throated Hummingbird is responsible for building the bulky cup-shaped nest out of plant fibers woven together and green moss on the outside for camouflage in a protected location, typically about 2 – 4 m high at the end of a descending bamboo stem or on a rootlet under a bank. She lines the nest with soft plant fibers, animal hair and feather down, and strengthens the structure with spider webbing and other sticky material, giving it an elastic quality to allow it to stretch to double its size as the chicks grow and need more room. The nest is typically found on a low, thin horizontal branch.

The average clutch consists of 2 white eggs, each being about the size of a coffee bean. The female alone incubates (broods) the eggs for about 15 – 19 days. During this time, the male continues to defend his territory and the flowers he feeds on. The female is also the only one that protects and feeds the chicks with regurgitated food (mostly insects since nectar is an insufficient source of protein for the growing chicks). As is the case with other hummingbirds, the chicks are only brooded for the first week or two. After about 12 days, the young are left alone even on cooler nights – probably due to the small nest size. The young leave the nest when they are about 20 – 26 days old.

Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Costa Rica (2/15/13)

Diet / Feeding

The Fiery-throated Hummingbirds primarily feed on nectar taken from a variety of brightly colored, scented small flowers of trees, herbs, shrubs and epiphytes, Ericaceae and bromeliads.

They favor flowers with the highest sugar content (often red-colored and tubular-shaped) and seek out, and aggressively protect, those areas containing flowers with high energy nectar. They use their long, extendible, straw-like tongues to retrieve the nectar while hovering with their tails cocked upward as they are licking at the nectar up to 13 times per second. Sometimes they may be seen hanging on the flower while feeding.

Many native and cultivated plants on whose flowers these birds feed heavily rely on them for pollination. The mostly tubular-shaped flowers actually exclude most bees and butterflies from feeding on them and, subsequently, from pollinating the plants.

They may also visit local hummingbird feeders for some sugar water, or drink out of bird baths or water fountains where they will either hover and sip water as it runs over the edge; or they will perch on the edge and drink – like all the other birds; however, they only remain still for a short moment.

They also take some small spiders and insects – important sources of protein particularly needed during the breeding season to ensure the proper development of their young. Insects are often caught in flight (hawking); snatched off leaves or branches, or are taken from spider webs. A nesting female can capture up to 2,000 insects a day.

Males establish feeding territories, where they aggressively chase away other males as well as large insects – such as bumblebees and hawk moths – that want to feed in their territory. They use aerial flights and intimidating displays to defend their territories.

Males are fiercely territorial. Aerial battles between males are frequently observed and are usually very entertaining to the observer. Even though males will defend the flowers and scrubs in their feeding territories against other male hummingbirds; they usually tolerate females.

Call / Vocalization:

The call is a high-pitched twittering.

Hummingbird Resources


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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