Thursday, February 3, 2011

We mammals like a sweet drink

   Lazy or tired birdwatchers can take a seat and enjoy the Hummingbird Gallery just outside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. You can sit and watch dozens of hummingbirds zipping around to numerous feeders. As far as I know, no one has ever been impaled by a hummingbird but they often fly close enough to graze your head with a wing. (The Hummingbird Gallery also has a nice gift shop and a great free exhibit of nature photos by Michael and Patricia Fogden.) Sheltered from the wind, the patio where the feeders are is nice and warm if the sun has come through the clouds. It's particularly nice to grab a cup of the best coffee in the area at the Cafe Colibrí next door and do some birding from a seated position after a morning of serious hiking.
  When we were there recently, an olingo (Bassaricyon gabbii) came to one of the feeders and had a nice long drink of sugar water. Martín, who works in the gallery, told me the olingo usually visits once a day in the months of January and February. As he remarked, this particular olingo must be the most famous in the world because it makes such an easy photographic subject.
Before you typecast this mostly nocturnal mammal for its fuzzy cuteness, consider this information from Mark Wainwright's The Natural History of Costa Rican Mammals:

"One in Monteverde was seen chasing down a variegated squirrel and killing it with a series of bites to the back of the head. Another Monteverdean individual, which frequently arrives to steal sugar water from feeders at the Hummingbird Gallery, also snags the occasional hummingbird, a demonstration that has horrified more than one group of feeder spectators."

We did not witness any predatory activity but we were quite amazed with how much sugar water he consumed. Olingos also drink nectar in the wild, but I'm sure they never find any other source that is so large. 


Asplund said...

Fantastic photo! (Glad it's not a photo showing him in predatory action, though.)

Carolina said...

Yes and I think about 10 other people got equally good photos because he was at the feeder for several minutes, in good light.

lynn said...

I would have thought “cute” if not for those nasty habits. Our squirrels – probably not as cute- and too big and slow to nab a hummer.

Carolina said...

Animals do what they do. The olingo is an omnivore. It's pretty amazing that one could catch such skillful fliers as a hummingbird. I'm sure it doesn't happen often.

Evelien said...

It's so wonderful to read your Monteverde stories. This animal is one I never heard of or seen before. The birds in the previous mail also, they are beautiful. Looking forward to more species and stories of daily life over there.

Carolina said...

Thanks Evalien! In fact, even in Costa Rica it's generally hard to see an olingo as for the most part they are nocturnal. I guess a drink of sugar water is a sort of midnight snack.