Eddy Rabbitt sang about loving a rainy night but in Costa Rica, hummingbirds love a rainy day. They sing the praises of rain loud and clear with their usual range of high-pitched chipping and sputtering complaints. Despite spending my fair share of soggy birding days in the tropics, I hadn’t realized just how much hummingbirds do love the rain until a recent experience at the Catarata del Toro, central Costa Rica.Catarata del Toro

The Catarata del Toro on a sunny day. If you are curious about what this scene looked like when we were there, look out the window of a plane when flying through the clouds.

This was our final day of birding togther in Costa Rica and although Mike, Corey, and I reminisced about and hoped for a reappearance of good old Helios, the closest star was still on vacation, probably on the other side of the mountains, or maybe in the Sahara. We were smack dab in one of the wettest parts of the Caribbean slope and that fact was made obvious by near constant rain for at least five days and nights. But did that stop us from birding? Um, I guess at times it did but there were enough slow-downs in the rain for some darn fine birding indeed.

One of those darn fine places was the Catarata del Toro because as the rain strived to convert the surrounding air into a lake, we stayed completely sheltered and dry while being entertained by swarms of hummingbirds. Were there a few dozen? A hundred? I’m tempted to go crazy and say that there were thousands but yeah, that would be kind of exaggerated. Let’s just say that there was so much Colibridae madness, I couldn’t keep track.hummingbirds

A glimpse of the madness.

As the rain did its constant dance, hummingbirds zoomed from one feeder to the next and hung out in the bushes for some soaking wet, R and R.Black-bellied Hummingbird

This is a great spot for the localized, near endemic Black-bellied Hummingbird.White-bellied Mountain-Gem 1

The equally tough White-bellied Mountain-gem was also in the house.

Violet Sabrewing male

A male Violet Sabrewing loving the rain.

Being hummingbirds, they of course faught with each other, the Coppery-headed Emeralds being particularly nasty.Coppery-headed Emerald male 1

Don’t be fooled by the small size and pretty colors. This species can be a miniature menace!

In other words, the hummingbird rejoiced, we were happy (in part, because we were dry), and the other birds….well, the other birds were absent. They eventually showed but not until the falling mist coalesced into a silhouette-generating fog.Blue-gray Tanager

 I went to Costa Rica and the only feeder bird I got was this Blue-gray Tanager

We also got ridiculously close looks at hummingbirds, especially when they inspected our faces at close range while holding a feeder. Although that might spurn some envy, before you try this at home, let me tell you, it’s a bit intimidating when a feisty hummingbird hovers inches from your eyes with its sharp little rapier at the ready.

pat and hummingbirds


I give sugar, I am a friend, please don’t poke me in the eye…

To bear witness to this hummingbird feast, head to the Catarata del Toro, Costa Rica on a rainy day.

Written by Patrick O'Donnell
Patrick O'Donnell became a birder at the age of 7 after seeing books about birds in the Niagara Falls, New York public library. Although watching thousands of gulls in the Niagara Gorge was sublime, more bird species (and warmer weather) eventually brought him to Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and other very birdy tropical places. A biologist by training, he has worked on bird-related projects in Colorado, Washington, Peru, and other locales, and has guided birders in Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. These days, he lives in Costa Rica where he juggles guiding, freelance writing, developing bird apps for Costa Rica and Panama, posting on his Costa Rica birding blog, and discussing dinosaurs with his young daughter.