The Hummingbird Effect


By some measures, it’s a tiny country, just .03% of the Earth’s landmass. But when it comes to wildlife, Costa Rica is an ecological giant, bursting with a density of species and diverse habitats unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

Cradled by the Caribbean on the East and rugged Pacific shores on the west, this sliver of tropical paradise stretches from dry forests to verdant wetlands, coastal mangroves to misty cloud forests shrouding rugged volcanoes — a multitude of spectacular worlds all packed into a country the size of Denmark.

Each of these habitats shelters a staggering diversity of life that fills their trees, skies and waters — rainbow-beaked toucans, capuchin, spider and howler monkeys, majestic parrots, long-snouted tapirs and slow-moving sloths.

Over a quarter of the country is protected reserve, making Costa Rica’s wild areas a virtual symphony of life, and at its heart are the tiny conductors that keep the land in bloom and the orchestra on cue: Hummingbirds.

Over 50 species of hummingbirds make their home across every environment in Costa Rica — some luxuriating in the abundant blooms of the tropical lowlands and central valleys, while on the highest mountain peaks, the volcano hummingbird’s delicate size belies its hardy nature; here above the tree line, these tiny survivors brave the chilly, high-altitude winds to nest and feed their young in one of the country’s harshest environments.

Nearby, the violet sabrewing – one of the largest hummingbirds in the world – buzzes through the cloud forest, nipping at banana flowers, while the rare sicklebill hummingbird sips nectar from an ancient flower evolved to perfectly accommodate the bird’s signature beak.

While these beloved pollinators go to work, the fruits of their labor bring neighboring wildlife to the feast. Scarlet macaws, monkeys and toucans pluck fresh fruit from the foliage, dropping juicy scraps and seed pods to the forest floor. At dawn, elusive Baird’s tapirs use their prehensile noses to sniff out a meal, devouring the fallen fruit, carrying the seeds of future forests in their bellies as they forage. In eye-popping, cinematic style, ‘The Hummingbird Effect’ captures the intricately linked creatures of the country’s lush environments, showcasing the dazzling hummingbirds at their heart and giving new meaning to the country’s motto, Pura Vida — Pure Life.