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There is a great variety of hummingbird species found
around Utopia. These pictures are mostly poor,
but we hope they give an idea of the magic of hummingbirds.
We've added some text about the status and ID recently
(July 2011) as well as some new photos.
Hummers are fast, beautiful, fascinating, and easy to see closely,
so great birds to watch. Males have iridescent feathers
in the throat called a gorget that can be spectacular when
seen in the right light (over the shoulder best) but they
just appear dark when not refracting light.
They can shine like neon at the right angle
When available some 90% of their diet is small bugs, often
gathered at flowers (it's not just nectar they are there for)
and they are great pollinators. You can often see them
'flycatching' though gnatcatching is more like it.
The numbers of individuals locally can be staggering, we've
had a thousand plus individuals daily at our 8 feeders
on Seco Ridge, consuming over a gallon of fluid and 2+ lbs.
of sugar daily! Hummingbirds are driving the price of
sugar up! :)
The payoff is, besides the intimate study opportunities,
and the entertainment, you might attract a stray vagrant
rarity, by having all the gang over for lunch regularly.
Like any and all birds, the best way to find something rare
is to learn your regular common stuff so when something
unusual shows up, it stands out to you. Either write a
description while looking at it, or better, take a picture.
The last thing in the world you want to do is to
try to explain something like this to experts:
hybrid Black-chinned x Ruby-throated Hummingbird
If you see something odd, unusual, or different, besides letting
me know if you are local please, note bill color if any, tail
pattern, and head and throat pattern. Over 99% of what is
here is Black-chinned or Ruby-throated, so learning them first
is the key to identifying anything else.
From Lost Maples to Utopia 13 species of hummingbirds have occurred,
which is outstanding diversity in the U.S.. In our yard in
the last 5-6 years I've seen 11 species! The overwhelming
majority of what is here though is Black-chinned Hummingbird.
Ruby-throated is 2nd most common and note windows of presence.
Rufous is annual in small numbers, the distant third most regular
species here. Broad-tailed and Calliope are scarce but about
annual in fall in very low numbers (1-2). Those are the 5 types
pretty sure to occur here in any given year, and 99.99% of what
you see here around Utopia will be one of those five species.
But in that other .01%, lies the reward for good hard study.
It can hardly get any more exciting than the rarities, as it
seems just about anything known in the U.S. could show up.
The other types that have been found here are Green Violetear
(from Mexico), Blue-throated, Lucifer, Costa's, Allen's, Anna's,
Broad-billed, and White-eared. But I can't buy a Buff-bellied,
nearest one is a single Uvalde record in fall. The best time
for unusual things is fall, which for them is mostly July to October.
Remember, it only takes one good hummer to make your day. Like this one:
Male Lucifer Hummingbird at Seco Ridge, June 29, 2011
Maybe 11th hill country (Edw. Plt.) record, 1st Uvalde Co. record.
(couple more pix of it all the way at bottom)
Now for some hummer pix and a little bit of info
about the status and identification of most of the
Great form! Looks like a full-power acceleration stroke
is next. This is what happens if you have too much sugar.
Audubon painted some like this and people said, "they don't
really do that." A great watcher far ahead of his time.
We'll start with the two common species. Our most common
hummingbird locally is Black-chinned, the abundant breeding
species present primarily March through August. This is
THE baseline hummer here, as it is what most of them are.
Females and immatures are the standard issue hummingbird green
above and dirty white below. On both sexes the green though
is somewhat dingy, dirty, muted, grayish appearing due to usually
having gray edges to most of the green feathers, so they are not
as bright green as Ruby-throated. Immatures at first have very
contrasting gray heads so are easy to tell from the females in
May and June. The bill is long, longer than head, and
other than just fledged young, clearly drooped somewhat.
Black-chinned Hummingbird (immature or female)
Black-chinned Hummingbird, female
A slow backlit exposure to show wing and tail movement...
this is close to how our eyes see them.
Note Black-chinned nearly constantly wags its tail.
Black-chinned Hummingbird, female
A faster exposure to freeze movement
creates a different image of them.
Black-chinned Hummingbird (immature)
Black-chinned Hummingbird immature in late June
just acquiring first few green crown feathers.
Black-chinned Hummingbird, adult male,
usually the throat appears black.
Here's a closeup of the gorget feathers.
Some imm. male Black-chinned Hummingbird can start getting
some purple throat feathers in about 60 days (June),
but others may take longer.
Albino (mostly) hummingbird at Utopia July 15-18, 2011
was believed to be a Black-chinned Hummingbird.
Ruby-throated occur mostly from April 15 to May 15, and
again in fall from early August to October, peaking around
mid-September when the first cold front passes. While
most pass through, I am sure a few nest here during the
spring, some are present early April to late May.
I have seen birds I am sure were fresh juveniles (and
had females) in early June more than once. Some
females were banded near Leakey in May with eggs.
Which means they weren't migrating, they were nesting.
Note bill unlike Black-chinned is short and straight,
equal to head length, not longer than head, or drooped.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds - females and or imm. males
Green above and white below is a theme
amongst female or immature hummingbirds as are
some white tipped tail feathers. On Ruby-throat
the bill is shorter and straighter than all
but just-out-of-the-nest Black-chinned, and it
lacks gray feather edges of Black-chinned so
is much brighter green without the dingy look.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds - females and or imm. males
Here are some adult males, no ID issues here.
Much longer tailed than Black-chinned, so wing tips
when at rest much further from tail tip than adult
male Black-chinned (1/2" versus 1/4" in Black-chin)
They are also much darker, more emerald or forest green
without the dirty dingy gray cast of Black-chinned.
Rufous is annual, mostly in fall, mostly immature
or female plumaged birds, though some adult males
occur (mostly in July-Aug.).; I've seen as many as
10 Rufous here over the course of an an entire fall.
It is the most likely wintering hummer here.
Other than the nearly solid rufous adult males,
they are green above like other hummers, but with
well saturated rufous on sides, and in base of tail.
10% of banded Selasphorus (Rufous-Allen's) wintering
on the Texas coast are Allen's, the lookalike sibling
species. I've seen a couple green-backed adult
male Allen's here.
adult male Rufous Hummingbird
same adult male Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird - imm. female
Rufous or Allen's Hummingbird
Non-adult males are best labelled generically as
Selasphorus species unless definitive characters
like outer tail feather width/shape are determined.
Hummingbird at Flower
In an average year one or two Calliope occur,
most are immatures or females in fall, I know of
only one spring record, an adult male April 2011 at
Lost Maples, photographed by a yankee visitor and
seen by all the staff and visitors for the day.
America's smallest bird near Utopia, Sept. 05, immature or female,
note pastel peachy sides like Broad-tailed.
You can also see at the posterior end of the bird,
the gray tip of the near wing, the black area is
the tail, then the pale is the underside of the
other wingtip. Note wings extend past short tail.
Calliope (left) and imm. male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Then note it is smaller than a Ruby-throat, note how
long even an immature male Ruby-throat tail is past wings.
Adult male Calliope Hummingbird at Seco Ridge Aug 21, 2009.
Over 90+% of those that occur here are immatures or females.
On average I see about one or two Broad-tailed per year,
but have had four in a fall, and it has wintered here.
Immature Broad-tailed Hummingbird
note pastel peach-buff sides, not saturated
like Rufous or Allen's.
Immature male Broad-tailed Hummingbird
note limited rufous in base of outer rectrices
Immature Broad-tailed Hummingbird
peachy on sides, rufous in base of tail,
bright grassy green, big
Adult male Broad-tailed Hummingbird has a
rose pink gorget and its wings whistle like
a cricket when it flies
Anna's is far less than annual, I've seen it
only 2 of 7 falls here so far. A late-season bird, IF it occurs at all.
Anna's Hummingbird - hatch-year male digiscoped near Utopia, Nov. 11-14, '05
Anna's Hummingbird #2 in '05, Dec. 3-9.
The gray underparts is a tip-off to look closer,
as are things like any odd (especially late) date.
And for suffering through all that ......
Here is your hard earned reward!
Don't expect one of these, but knowing what might occur, and what they look like, will help
you recognize something different. That is the benefit of study, you'll know when something
is different, and when you better get a picture.
A female White-eared Hummingbird at Utopia, July 21-22, 2007
was 2nd hill country (Edw. Plt.) record, and 1st Uvalde Co.
record, besides the stuff yard list dreams are made of.
Then this was a 5 day wonder June 28 to July 2, 2011
(though surely it was present the morning of July 3)
Male Lucifer Hummingbird at Utopia July 1, 2011
same male Lucifer Hummingbird, June 29, 2011
It doesn't get much better than a good hummer!
Whooda thunk you could essentially throw a dart at a
random spot here, where every acre looks like a billion
next to it, put out some feeders, and attract 11 species
of hummingbirds in about 7 years? White-eared and Lucifer
at the same place!?! On the plateau? Green Violetear was an
expected vagrant, and Costa's was the
best one, though rejected by the TBRC since I had no
irrefutable evidence. Blew it not getting tape of
that call I've heard thousands of times, thought it would
stay more than 2 days.
The big message is that there simply must be a lot
more going through than what one person sees at one
randomly placed feeder bank. I'd expect a station
monitored on the river corridor would get way more.
Many people are serious hummer feeders in the area,
and who knows what all is showing up. The only
thing different about this Seco Ridge site is there is
a nature nerd here that knows them fairly well.
Perhaps in a decade hummer cams will be set up so folks can
monitor stations better..... :) Imagine a website
with a dozen little screens showing different stations
anyone could be checking. " Hey Ed Straight
you have a Broad-tail at feeder 3!" :)
Remember the key is learning Black-chinned and Ruby-throated
intimately, so anything else stands out like a sore thumb.
If you really care about the best for your birds,
lose the premade boxed mixes. They are a sales
and marketing gimmick. The best the thing you can
feed them is 4 parts water to 1 part SUGAR (1 cup sugar
to 4 cups water) which most closely exactly duplicates real
actual nectar found in flowers. No un-compensated pro
or expert uses the pre-made mixes. Clean your feeders
weekly with 10% bleach solution, or anytime you see the
dreaded black mold. Hang them in a shady spot so
the fluid keeps longer. Use a 1-2" wide band of
tanglefoot high on the hanger as close to the top as possible
(away from the feeder) to keep ants off the feeders.
Never put out refrigerated fluid, warm to room temp first.
Lighting is everything with hummers, a change of angle and colorless dark
can become a luminescent iridescent color show.
There will be more hummingbird photos added to this page in the future!
To see more of my hummingbird photos (like if you can't sleep)
visit one of my other websites that have additional pictures.
and scroll down on the front page and click Allen's Hummingbird page link.
Also at: Harbor Park Pages
Go to the bird photos page, and then to Hummingbird photos page.
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