Monday, April 23, 2012

Our Hummingbirds by Ron LeValley

Last week Ron LeValley's Outside My Window featured these beautiful pictures of our northcoast hummingbirds, so I thought I'd share them with those of you who might not receive his daily e-mails. How to join this free, day-brightening list is at the bottom of the post.


Pictures and text by Ron LeValley
Male Anna's Hummingbird
Ron LeValley
(The) male Anna's Hummingbirds have red on the throat (which we call a gorget on the hummingbird) and on the crown. The rest of it is colored green and pale gray. At least 10 of them showed up at our feeder during this influx. Check out the tiny feet!

Male Anna's Hummingbird
Ron LeValley
We also had an influx of Allen's Hummingbirds. These are very similar to the Rufous, but have an obvious green back. They are also migratory, but don't go as far north or as far south as the Rufous, (which) nest inland from us, but are not common on the immediate coast.   
Male Allen's Hummingbird
Ron LeValley


Rufous Hummingbirds are smaller than the Anna's and are highly migratory, traveling from wintering in southern Mexico and Central America all the way to as far north as Alaska during the summer.
 
Male Rufous Hummingbird
 
Male Rufous Hummingbird
Ron LeValley
Many of you have asked more questions about distinguishing Rufous from Allen's Hummingbirds. (The) Allen's has green on it back. Here is a Rufous with an almost all orange back. But note the tiny flecks of green in the back and on the shoulder. This is not unusual for Rufous to show some green. In fact, there are rare Rufous Hummers that can have substantial amount of green in the back. So how do we identify them? It's tough. Look at the outer tail feather on this bird. It is wider than an Allen's outer tail feather. And the shape of the second from the middle tail feather (the one lying on the wing) is unique. So I am sure that this one is a Rufous. Obviously it is hard to see this mark in the field. So I can't be sure that yesterday's (picture) was an Allen's, I can only make a good guess. If we are not sure, we call them Selasphorus sp. because Selasphorus is the genus of these two species.

(Note of explanation from Ginny. Remember mnemonic Kings Play Chess On Fine Grain Sand from high school biology? Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. Sp. is the abbreviation for species. The binomial, or genus and specific epithet, of the Allen's hummingbird is Selasphorus sasin and the binomial of the Rufous is Selasphorus rufus. Since Ron wasn't sure which it was, he referred to the bird by its genus and sp. indicated a single species (one bird) in that genus. Sp. because there was only one bird at the feeder. If two birds had been at the feeder, neither of which he could identify to species, he would have referred to them as Selasphorus spp. Spp. is plural.)

Rufous
Ron LeValley
Just to complete the types of birds we had during this invasion, here is female Anna's Hummingbird. They are slightly larger than the Rufous and Allen's hummingbirds, but have no sign of the rusty-orange color on them. Not only did we get the Rufous and Allen's in large numbers, we had as many as 10 Anna's around the feeders as well. So this influx was not just of migratory birds.

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