Friday, May 22, 2009

Learn What to Look For!

This morning, still wet from the heavy rains yesterday and last night, I saw what I believe to be a female Calliope Hummingbird. Of course, I really don’t know, but I’ve had them here earlier…or so some commotion a May 4th posting caused makes me think.

At any rate, when I came home last night, I was amazed to see so many birds at the feeders; it was after 5:30 and still raining. The birds were feeding hard…and were slick; dark with thoroughly wet feathers. I kept thinking I hope it doesn’t get too cold tonight! To help things along, I checked feeders it made sense to re-fill and made sure all the nectar feeders had enough to make it through to the early morning; and added a couple fresh suet cakes.

Back to the hummingbird; one of the things I thoroughly believe in is reading field guides and other books on local birds. One needs to know what one might see around here…and when, too. I do this, and while I suppose it might cause me to see things that are not there…like wanting a certain hawk to be a Ferruginous Hawk; I don’t like to say it’s so unless I’m certain. But, like seeing a smear of intense blue amongst the Lazuli Buntings, some ‘sightings’ prepare me for reality; a couple days later I got a long, clear look at an Indigo Bunting. Or like the other day when I noticed a ‘black-headed oriole’….I was prepared to consider either an Orchard or a Baltimore Oriole when I got a much better look later in the day.

So, this morning while I watched the birds and I noticed a single and very hungry female hummingbird at the feeder, sitting for quite a long time, I considered the fact that she practically had no tail. In fact, she had the ‘stubby cigar’ shape experts describe as a Calliope Hummingbird …with a sort of humped back I associate with the breed. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert birder and can’t tell female hummers one from another; but this one sure was stubby!

It could be she just arrived (though males usually arrive first) and was exhausted; it could be ‘she’ is a young male, and it could be she was just all puffed up because she was cold. I don’t know, but I got to watch here for quite awhile…even as others buzzed around her; back and forth from the feeders. I think I was watching the first of hummingbird variety number three: the Calliope Hummingbird…but I won’t know for sure till I see the males. They’re coming and I’ll be ready to identify them when they get here.

I lifted the second photo from to show the stubby, ‘cigar-shape’ look that make Calliope’s unique. Please visit his site for the full-size image. The other image is from Wikipedia.


Bosque Bill said...

Female hummers are difficult. This early in the season I think you can eliminate juvenile or sub-adult plumage from consideration. Body shape, as you said, and appearance of the tail, especially when spread, are the best options for ID.

It seemed like I had an influx of hummers yesterday, too.

Beverly said...

Hmmmmmmm...something to think about; thanks Bill.

I wonder when a hummer gets its colorful gorget? Are they like some other birds...and don't get 'adult plumage' till after their first year? When a young hummer is born and flies south with it's first migration...when it comes back through is it considered a 'first year' or an adult?

I saw some photos of 'young male' Calliopes and they had only a bit of 'dark' on their chins...nothing like the colorful bibs they'd have later.

See...I have soooooooo much to learn!

Bosque Bill said...

Sibley calls those first year birds "sub-adult." By the next spring they are mature.

We're getting lots of rain down here!

Anonymous said...

Still no hummers up where I'm at. Perhaps it is just a bit too cool and early in the year for them. Time will tell.

Beverly said...

Hmmmmmmmmmm...I don't know where you are, Scienceguy; but do you usually have hummingbirds? During the summers here, we have four varieties for sure...and with a visitor thrown in now and then. I don't know how long they've been keeping records, but according to the CFO, twelve (!!!) different hummers have been IDed in this county! Sheeshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh