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  • Writer's pictureJeffrey Patrick Karnes

The beautifully colored Red_legged Honeycreeper

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

The plumage of the Red-legged Honeycreeper changes from olive-green to Bright, beautiful blue during mating season.

While on my Costa Rica photography Workshop, I came upon this incredible little bird called a Red-legged Honeycreeper. The brilliant contrasting colors captured my attention. I immediately began to wonder why it was so colorful. It turns out that this is their breeding plumage. The rest of the year, they are an olive-green color similar to the females. That is a fantastic color change that I don't see often.

The red-legged honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) is a small songbird species in the tanager family (Thraupidae). It is found in the tropical World from southern Mexico south to Peru, Bolivia and central Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, and on Cuba, where possibly introduced. It is also rarely found in southern Texas.

In Costa Rica, red-legged honeycreepers generally breed between April and June. The nest is built entirely by the female and is placed in a shrub or tree several meters above the ground. The cup-shaped nest has thin sidewalls and is formed of stiff fibers. It is attached to the supporting twigs with cobwebs. The clutch consists of two eggs that are laid in the early morning on consecutive days. They are 13.4 mm × 19.1 mm (0.53 in × 0.75 in) in size and have a white background with brown speckles forming a ring around the larger end. The female incubates the eggs for 12 or 13 days. When they first hatch, the nestlings have their eyes closed and are covered with tufts of grey down. They are brooded by the female but fed by both parents. They fledge after around 14 days.


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