Wildlife Photography: Peruvian Hummingbirds

by | Mar 31, 2014

Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird, winner

Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird

I’ve already done a post on both Alberta Hummingbirds and my April 2013 trip to Peru, but I recently received an honor that has me reflecting on the time I spent with the some hummingbirds in Peru. My image of a Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird (right) recently won first place in an International Photo Contest put on my Mount Royal University’s Office of International Education. I am honored to have one of my favorite photos, that just happened to be taken on one of the most amazing trips ever, win this award. Thank you to the MRU community for your votes and support.

The image brings me back to Cusco – April 23, 2013…

I was exhausted after completing the four-day hike to Machu Picchu and nursing a head cold. I did a quick city tour of Cusco in the morning, and spent most of the afternoon on a bench in a courtyard by our hotel, watching and photographing the hummingbirds. For hours, I watched the Sparkling Violetear, featured in my winning photo, and another gregarious species of hummingbird – the Giant Hummingbird.

Giant Hummingbird, Cusco, Peru

Giant Hummingbird, Cusco, Peru

The Giant Hummingbird is actually a giant, relative to other species of hummingbirds at least – it is about the size of finch. Prior to leaving for the Inca Trail, our group spent one night at the hotel in Cusco. While we were checking in, I looked out the window and saw a brown-ish blur streak across the courtyard and hover at the tree. Given the size and the color, I knew right away what it was. I had done a bit of searching and seen images of the Giant Hummingbird prior to the trip. I rushed to the base of the tree and managed to snap a few blurry shots before I was summoned for dinner.  I knew we’d be back to this hotel for a day of rest after completing the hike, so was pretty sure I would get to see the giant again.

I was right. Not only was the giant still around when we returned four days later, but another beautiful specimen – the Sparkling Violeatear. It’s easy to see where the violetears get their name. They actually have violet-colored feathers in the ear region, and in the right light, their iridescence sparkles and reflects a myriad of green and blue tones.

Giant Hummingbird, Cusco Peru

Giant Hummingbird, Cusco Peru

As mentioned in my Alberta Hummingbird post, hummingbirds are very territorial. There was one giant and at least two violetears active in the courtyard that afternoon. As soon as the violetears buzzed in to feed, the giant would zoom down from its perch on the side of the building and ‘attack’. The giant would make a few attempts to drive away the violetears, but his efforts never panned out. The violetears were undeterred, and the giant would either go back to his perch to watch over the courtyard or join the violetears and take in a meal of the sweet nectar produced by the brilliant orange flowers. This routine happened time and time again, giving me the opportunity to take about 400 frames. Only about 20 or 30 of these are ‘keepers’, but I am really happy with the images and entire experience as a whole.

Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird, Cusco, Peru

Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird, Cusco, Peru

It was such a treat to get to watch this display. Not only were the birds beautiful, but the flowers they were feeding on and the background in the courtyard offered some great photo opportunities.  I had seen hummingbirds in action before, but never in such a beautiful setting for a such a long period of time. It gave me an opportunity to move around and play with different angles and camera settings. A few of my violetear photos (including the winner) was captured with the flash, which accentuated the vibrant colors and created a sort of ‘stop-motion’ effect in the wings.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: hummingbirds are the most remarkable little creatures ever! I can’t wait until I get to see them again 🙂

Take a look at the rest of my images from my trip to Peru here.



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