The Virtual Rainforest
A Neotropical Rainforest
Rainforest Research


Tree Seedlings

Forest Flowers



Army Ants

Bullet Ants
Leafcutter Ants

Rhinoceros Beetle

Swallowtail Butterfly



Keel-billed Toucan

Howler Monkeys

White-faced Monkeys

Three-toed Sloth
Baird's Tapir
White-lipped Peccary
Reptiles and Amphibians:
Red-eyed Tree Frog
Poison Dart Frog
Helmeted Iguana
Eyelash Viper
Terciopelo Viper
Spectacled Caiman
American Crocodile
Human Systems:
Rainforest Boy
Rainforest Girl
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Rainforest Research

About the Authors





Hummingbirds and Heliconias
Violet Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica)

Long-tailed Hermit (Phaethornis superciliosus)
Heliconia Flowers (Heliconia wagnerianna)

Hummingbird Moth

The Violet-crowned Woodnymph is a species of medium-sized hummingbird found in the lowland rainforets of Central America and Colombia.

Hummingbirds feed on nectar from flowers, but also consume quite a few small, flying insects. They are truly amazing little creatures, with hearts that pump 600-1200 times a minute (ours beat about 75 times a minute), and wings that beat up to 90 times a second!

"Medium-sized hummingbird" is not an oxymoron. There are some very, very small hummingbirds (< 3 inches or 7.5 cm) and a few VERY LARGE hummingbirds (up to 8.5 inches or 21.5 cm).

There are several hundred different species of humminbirds, but they are only found in the Americas.

Violet Crowned Woodnymph
Violet Saberwing Violet Saberwing
Heliconias are showy flowers of the forest understory. Violet Saberwing, Central America's largest hummingbird.

The Long-tailed Hermit is a common hummingbird in the lowland rainforest. It's curved beak is especially designed for feeding from Heliconia flowers.

Heliconia wagnerianna What you might call a flower here is actually a bunch of flowers. Each of the parts with red on it is called a bract, which is a special leaf that covers the flowers. Inside each bract are several small flowers, some of which you can see peeking out from the upper bracts. The whole group of flowers and bracts is called an inflorescence. Heliconias are typically pollinated by hummingbirds. There is a whole group of hummingbirds called "hermits" that have curved beaks, special for inserting into heliconia flowers. The Heliconia are related to bananas and bird-of-paradise flowers. They are all common in the understory of tropical rainforests, with Heliconias in the Neotropics, Bananas and relatives in the Old World Tropics, and bird-of-paradise flowers in the South Pacific.

The bizarre creature at the right looks like a hummingbird when it moves through the forest canopy. However, when you get an up-close look, it is actually a type of moth.

Hummingbird moths belong to a mostly nocturnal family, the Sphynx Moths (Sphingidae). These moths are important flower pollinators and some species have INCREDIBLY long tongues to fit the nectar tubes of long flowers. This allows the flower to save the valuable energy in the nectar for only the type of moth that can reach its tongue all the way down, and then that moth is likely to feed at similar flowers and spread the pollen.

Hummingbird Moth










The Virtual Rainforest

Back to the Rainforest

Copyright Gerald R. Urquhart
Michigan State University

Students and teachers have permission to quote text and use images from this website in class assignments. Images may be used in classroom and academic presentations with notification of author. All other use should request permission.


Virtual Rainforest development supported by grant #0815966 from the
National Science Foundation

Center for Global Change and Earth Observation

Michigan State University