Life Among the Guayacan Tree Flowers

April 1, 2022 Birds, Birds from Colombia, The most beautiful places in Colombia

When the guayacan trees (Handroanthus guayacan) begin to bloom, the first to arrive are the hummingbirds, which appear when the tree sheds its leaves, and the buds start to sprout. The hummingbirds defend the colossal tree as if each one of them needs all the thousands of flowers it produces. They are highly territorial and spend more time defending, and attacking those who approach the tree, than feeding themselves.

Black-throated Mango Hummingbirds, Anthracothorax, male

The bloom generally occurs twice a year. One of the first to arrive is the Black-throated Mango Hummingbirds (Anthracothorax), who come to take possession of its territory and wait patiently until the flowers open their corollas.

Black-throated Mango Hummingbirds, Anthracothorax, male
Black-throated Mango Hummingbird, Anthracothorax, male

This species is known to be migratory within its range and follows the blossoms of some large trees from which it feeds on nectar and small insects on the fly.

Black-throated Mango, Anthracothorax, hembra

In this species, the male and female are very well differentiated because the male is green on the back, and its chest is black, with bright blue on the throat.

The female is easily distinguished because it has a white chest with a black stripe in the middle.

Photographing them is not easy at all. The tree is about 100 feet high, and they are tiny and speedy. You never know where they will show up, and they are under backlit conditions or in the shade.

Purple-throated Woodstar, Calliphlox mitchellii

 The purple-throated Woodstar (Calliphlox mitchellii) is also a small visitor to the guayacan and has no problem piercing the flowers with its tiny beak to access its sweet food.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Amazilia tzacatl

The Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl) is also unmistakable, as its tail and bill are red and contrast with the yellow flowers.

Bananaquit, Coereba flaveola

Birds of other species also come to feed in the tree. The bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) pierce the flowers with their curved beaks to extract nectar through a hole at the base of the flower.

Blue-gray tanagers (Thraupis episcopus) are incredible acrobats, and it was hard to see if they were also after the nectar. Still, I did see them hanging on their legs, trying to reach the insects fluttering around the flowers. There were mosquitoes, bees, bumblebees, and butterflies, which took advantage of the abundance of food.

But such is the number of flowers that attract birds and bugs and even iguanas who like to eat the flowers and sunbathe on the tree branches while slowly chewing them.

Among all this variety of life centered around the guayacan trees, this year, I had a strange experience. Some unwanted visitors arrived, a pair of roadside Hawks (Rupornis magnirostris), decided to stand guard and take advantage of the abundance of birds flitting around the tree. But if the hawk thought it was clever and had a good idea, the little birds didn’t get caught because that tree was off-limits. There were many other flowering guayacan trees in the neighborhood where they could get food.


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