All Those Hummingbirds Will Come HERE?

I’m so excited about this it’s hard to get my thoughts organized (plus, it’s Monday), but I’m going to try. Saturday, I went to a talk on feeding hummingbirds through the winter. I learned that there are more different kinds of hummingbirds that come to the Texas Gulf Coast in the winter than I ever knew! And a lot of them are difficult to identify.

We’ve had a buff-bellied hummingbird spend a couple of winters here. He was easy. He’s bigger than other hummers and he has a curved orange bill. We’ve missed him the past two years. Or, her. It’s impossible to tell the male from the female.

My son saw what I thought was a female ruby-throat in January, and he said it was most likely a female black-chinned. What? That bird comes here? I had no idea. Those two females are difficult to tell apart. Plus, I didn’t look at my book; I thought only the ruby-throat and the rufous were common here.

On Saturday, I learned that there are eight different hummingbirds that have been seen in Jefferson County, Texas. Ruby-throated, black-chinned, Anna’s, rufous, Allen’s, calliope, broad-tailed, buff-bellied, broad-billed and green-breasted mango hummingbirds. That is quite a list, and as I was reading over the material we were given, I realized that I had a male black-chinned hummingbird at my feeder. He had black under the bill and purple under the black, and I thought it was the way the winter light was messing with things. Another way to distinguish the ruby-throat from the black-chinned is the black-chinned will flick it’s tail while feeding. My neighbor and I both remember seeing a hummer do that at our feeders.

So, who has identified all those birds? People from the Audubon Society, and they know their birds. The lady who was giving the talk told us that  her husband takes a photo of each bird at their feeder each morning. He takes the photos (right through the kitchen window), then puts them on the computer and enlarges them. This way they are able to tell each bird apart by little details in their markings. They can also see distinctive characteristics of each species with a photo that it’s really hard, if not impossible, to see through binoculars. Several of these birds are very similar.

And, it seems my books are really out of date as far as their range maps go. I need to get an up to date book, and you do, too, if yours are not the latest. Some birds have changed their addresses, and that, along with programs that allow any of us to report what we see, has really changed what we thought we knew.

Here is a website my son told me about so I could read up on identifying the black-chinned and the ruby-throat. I can hardly wait until next winter!

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Rufous Hummingbird!

All right! Two years ago I got it into my head that I wanted a Rufous hummingbird to come to my feeder in the fall and stay for the winter. They do that on the Gulf Coast, although the closest ones I know of have been seen about 10 miles from me (that’s 10 miles as the crow flies, which is important when you’re talking about birds).

Two years ago, I left my hummer feeder out past the Ruby-throated migration in hopes that a rufous would find its way here. I didn’t get a Rufous, but got something totally unexpected. A Buff-bellied hummingbird showed up. Boy, I had no idea what that bird was until I looked him up. That’s when I learned the male and female Buff-bellied hummers look alike.

Last year, I left the feeder out still hoping for a Rufous, but also wanted the Buff-bellied to come back. Mr. or Mrs. Buff-bellied did show up and spent the second winter here. It was really nice, but still no Rufous.

This year, I left the feeder out hoping the Buff-bellied would come back. No Buff-bellied hummer this year, but about a week and a half ago, we saw a hummer at the feeder. It was small and I thought it was a female Ruby-throated straggler who would only be here for a day or two; she was busy doing other things when everyone else left and now she was running way behind. I don’t really know how a person would tell if a bird was old and too weak for the trip, but she looked fine to me.

Then came the surprise! When I was washing dishes and she was feeding, I would be watching her. That is when I noticed a flash of rufous coloring on her sides and tail when she flew. The first few times I saw it, it didn’t really register in my head that this was not normal for a Ruby-throated. After about a week of watching her, it dawned on me that even though she didn’t look like any Rufous I’d seen before, she just might be one. So, I looked in my bird books and that is when I discovered the male and female don’t look alike. What I had seen before were males. I needed one more good look to make sure who this bird is.

Then, along came a cold front. We had rain and a cold north wind and it got down to freezing last night. I read that the Rufous might stay for a week or two and then move on, and I was afraid she would leave if she didn’t like the climate, and I’d never be positive about her identity. Well, she didn’t leave and today the lighting was just right, and I finally got a good look with binoculars at her side, belly and flank and she is a female Rufous! I am so happy! My friend who lives 10 miles away has had them stay all winter, so I expect that as long as she likes the groceries and I can keep them coming, she will hang out with me this winter. I’m so happy.