Monday, July 5, 2010

The Rufous Are Back!

I thought I saw a Rufous (or Rufus) Hummingbird a few days before, gleaming like some brass or golden ingot in the morning sun...but I couldn't confirm. On July 7th, I got the confirmation; they're back.

Rufous is a color that may be described as reddish-brown or brownish-red, as of rust or oxidised iron. Sometimes it is said to be strong yellowish pink to moderate orange; reddish. I’ve heard this hummingbird described as both ‘brown’ as well as ‘orange’. I think they’re the color of rich coffee, just after thick cream is added but not yet stirred. This painting does a good job showing how different the bird will look, depending on lighting alone.

As with all iridescent feathers, sometimes this bird’s throat feathers (gorget) looks to be black in color; but then the sun hits it the bird positively glows
…like copper or gold. A stunning bird; when the males court the females they always insure the sun is behind the female, so she can witness him in all his glory as the sun brings out the bright iridescence of his feathering.

The Rufous Hummingbirds bred further north than any other hummingbird; in western North America, from southern Alaska to California. They winter in the Mexican state of Guerrero, travelling well over 2,000 miles each way in migration; quite a feat for a tiny bird weighing only 3-4 grams.

Like most hummers, the drabber female is a bit larger than the colorful male…to accommodate her when carrying eggs. For her size, she lays huge eggs; usually two, that are coffee-bean sized, in a tiny but elastic nest she builds herself of spider web and bits of mossy decoration. Male hummingbirds do not participate in nest building or rearing young; she is on her own. In fact, each male may mate with several females…but doesn’t feed any of them.

Nita, in her blog Nature Remains, has a lovely journal of her experience watching a nest she found. The photo of the nest with eggs is hers; do click this link to read the entire story and see more lovely photos. Remember the oldest post is at the top…so scroll down to start at the beginning! Nita is a lovely writer/poet/naturalist/photographer; you’ll love her. I just love how she describes two growing hummingbird nestlings as looking like a couple of sword-fighters in a telephone booth. She's awesome...

Youngsters thrive on spiders, tiny flies and gnats that are caught in the brush or grass. It’s interesting to watch a hummingbird hover back and forth just a few inches over the grass…hawking (catching insects on the fly). If hummingbird babies are fed only nectar, they suffer stunted growth and deformations…the protein of fresh meat is very important to proper development.

June Yard-birds (each name is linked to more information)
* = Fly-over
The nest photo is Nita's of Nature Remains, the balance are from Wikipedia.


Bosque Bill said...

I was thinking it was about time for them to show up here. I checked my records and they should be here in a couple of days. I'm looking forward to their flashy displays.

The Calliope HBs seem to arrive about the same time or a little later, though I've only ever seen one or two at a time.

Beverly said...

Yup...Calliopes always show up just a few days after the Rufous. I imagine I'll see them sometime this afternoon! Generally, I see quite a few...though not as many as the others.

Thanks, as always, for visiting!!!

Leslie said...

Debbie and I were out "shooting" hummingbirds yesterday. We saw all four species and got tons of photos. The best assortment was down Hwy. 115 in Red Rocks Ranch. Since they're flying southward, you'd think the Rufous would show up here in northern El Paso county first, but I haven't seen a single one at the feeders yet.

Beverly said...

Awwwwwwwww. Well, they just arrived here Thursday, but folks up north are already seeing Calliopes, as you say.

My new friend, Carol (vacationing from Lakewood Co) came this morning for a couple hours of birding at my place. While we looked in vain for the 4th hummer...she spotted a Black Phoebe! It's only the third time I've had one visit. It sort of looked like a youngster, to me.

I'm betting when the pond is finished I'll see them more often...and kingfishers, and herons. Hey, it could happen!