Thursday, February 27, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Lucifer Hummingbird

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It is nice to know that regardless of ones' political, religious, or ethnic background they have a love of  nature.

Today, we are showing:

Lucifer Hummingbird

Size: Lucifer is a small hummingbird of about 3 1/2 inches with a long decurved bill.

Identifying Characteristics: Here it is the bill. Very distinctly long and curved in both male and female set it apart from other hummers. The male's magenta gorget is very long and streaked. Buffy flanks and rufous tail are also distinguishing characteristics. See photo of the male and female Lucifer. Identifying the male is seldom a problem. For the female you need a good angle of the bill for proper identification otherwise it could look like a Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

Habitat: Open arid desert often near agaves.

Range: Chisos Mountains of SW Texas and extreme southern mountains of Arizona.

Seasons: April through October,

Where To Find: Ash Canyon is a very reliable site every year. The feeders in Portal (Chiricahua Mountains) are a possibility. It is a rare species so checking the Audubon's Rare Bird Alert is helpful. 

They may frequent the feeders earlier in the season when there are not so many hummers to compete with, but I've seen them as late as September in Ash Canyon. 

Comments: Lucifers are not abundant and do not hang around the feeders. I have been to Ash Canyon (Bed and Breakfast) several times and been lucky a third of the time. But, I have also talked with others that have spent six to eight hours there without seeing one. This hummer requires patience. First to see one, and second to photograph one hovering or in a tree. Most cameras (and photographers) are not fast enough to manually or even auto focus while hovering. So, the trick is to focus on a particular feeder and then recenter on the hummer without changing the focus. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Costaa's Hummingbird

The Costa's Hummingbird

Size: The Costa's is a small hummingbird of about 3.5 inches with a short straight bill.

Identifying Characteristics: For the male it is a long, flared purple gorget. The female is much like the Black-chinned female except that there appears to be a dark gray "smear-like" patch in back of the eye. (very clear in the next to last photo). The female also appears duller; i.e. the back and rump are not as dark green as the Black-chinned. It can even appear grayish. The Costa's is a little "plumpier" than the black chinned as well.

Habitat: Open scrub desert, washes, canyons.

Range: Southern California and Southern Arizona.

Seasons: year round with highest concentrations from February through June.

Where To Find: Although not abundant, it is here at The Azure Gate year round. So this is one of the most reliable places to find Costa's. WOW Arizona is another location to try. Like the Calliope, though, they do not travel in large numbers. So finding them is more difficult.  

Comment: The Costa's, Broad-billed, and the Anna's are the three most frequently found hummingbirds here at The Azure Gate. Costa's and Anna's breed here during the Spring. They typically nest on outer branches of our Palo Verde trees. Their nests are a work of both art and engineering.  They are delicately woven and yet strong enough so that during high winds, the nest sways with the branches as one.  The nests are about two inches high, with an inside diameter of only an inch at most. Usually, two eggs - although at least one year there were three. The Costa's prefers red flowers. In California, that is the Red Penstemon. Here at The Azure Gate that means Salvia. They also feed on insects that they can catch around those flowers. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Calliope Hummingbird

The Calliope Hummingbird

Size: With a range of 2.75 to 3.25 inches the Calliope is the smallest bird in North America with a correspondingly short and straight bill.

Identifying Characteristics: The male is much easier to identify than the female because of the streaked rosy gorget. Distinguishing the female from the female Broad-tailed Hummingbird is challenging. The female has a less dense  streaked gorget, with pale buffy flanks, though not as buffy as the Broad-tailed. The bill is shorter and thinner. There is a white spot just behind the eye. The Calliope also has a shorter tail, so its wings when folded back are longer than the tail. That is not the case with the Broad-tailed whose tail is longer than the wings when folded back.  

Habitat: Subalpine forests and meadows.

Range: Southwestern British Columbia, Western United States, and Mexico.

Seasons: Summers in the Northwestern US, Winters in Mexico; July and August best in Southern Arizona.

Where To Find: Portal, Ash Canyon, Ramsy Canyon, and Miller Canyon are the best places to look. You will need to check the Audubon's Rare Bird Alert to help locate.

Comments: The Calliope is not a common visitor to hummingbird feeders. They are more solitary than most of the other hummers. The male is particularly hard to find. They prefer flowers to feeders which makes them only an occasional visitor to feeders. And even though small, distinguishing between a hummingbird that is 3 1/4 inches versus 3 1/2 or 3 3/4 is very difficult. The females are particularly hard to distinguish from other females, especially Anna's, the Black-chinned, and Broad-tailed females.  Anna's females have a small central patch.  Black-chinned's bill is longer and there is little or buff on the flanks. The Broad-tailed  looks identical at rest, although the tail projects well beyond the wing tips. The Broad-tailed when flying has an obvious rufous color on the outer tail feathers.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Broad-tailed Hummingbird

The Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird feed her young



Size: The Broad-tailed Hummingbird is another medium sized hummingbird up to 4.25  inches and with a slightly smaller straight bill.

Identifying Characteristics: The tail when open is the give-away: white on the outer feathers, then black, then green, and finally bright orange. The male has a rosy red throat, but unlike Anna's, has a green crown. The male looks very much like a Ruby-throated Hummingbird from the East but their ranges don't overlap, so  distinguishing between them is typically not a problem. I am usually skeptical of "reported" sightings of the Ruby-throated in Arizona for this reason.  The female has buffy flanks unlike any of the other hummers except the Calliope and Rufous. The top photo on this page is a male. The hummer on the nest, the hummer feeding its young, and the hummer feeding from the flowers are females.

Habitat: Mountain forests and meadows, desert lowlands.

Range: Western United States and Mexico, although not along the coasts.

Seasons: Here from April through September.

Where to Find: The Azure Gate and most feeders in the Madrean Sky Islands (Miller Canyon, Ash Canyon, Ramsey Canyon, and Madera Canyon). 

Comments: They love flowers, so will share their time between feeders and flowers.  The females are much more plentiful around the feeder sites. Males only come to the feeders occasionally. Keep you eye out for flowers around feeders. Be ready, with your camera, when one comes to take flower nectar.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Broad-billed Hummingbird

The Broad-billed Hummingbird:

Size: The Broad-billed Hummingbird is a small to medium size hummingbird at 3.5 to 4 inches with a slightly longer straight - and red - bill.

Identifying Characteristics:  The Broad-billed Hummingbird looks very similar to the slightly smaller White-eared Hummingbird, except that the White-eared has a distinctive white "lightning bolt" above the ear. Both are dark in color with dark blues and greens on breast and back, and both have a red bill which easily separates them from other hummingbirds. The Berylline which is also dark all over has rufous wings and has more green and no blue. The bill of the Berylline appears black, although there is a small amount of red on the lower bill near the chin.  The Berylline also has very distinctive rufous color on the wings which is  clearly visible in flight.

Habitat: Within its range, there is a wide variation in its prefered habitat. It can be found in Mountains, Canyons, Riparian areas,  and Sonoran desert. 

Range: Western Mexico and the Madrean Sky Islands of Southern Arizona. It is the most common hummingbird of northwestern Mexico.

Seasons: March through September in the mountain areas; winters in the lower scrub and sonoran desert.

Where to Find:    The Broad-billed Hummingbird can be found frequently around The Azure Gate (bottom right photo). High probability locations are Ramsey, Miller, Ash, and Madera Canyon. You'll often see them in Patagonia and the San Pedro River feeders too. Any of these locations should produce results. In Madera Canyon, for example there may be as many as 20 or 30 feeding at Kubo Cabins daily. The same is true in Ash, Miller, and Ramsey Canyons.

Comments: The Broad-bill population is much higher than the White-eared so is more often seen. They arrive in the US in large numbers  and always seem to be the most active hummers in the feeding sites. They spend much time chasing each other.  They also take nectar from a variety of flowers and catch insects by hawking and gleaning. As with most hummers they have very long tongues which enable them to get inside flowers -- and feeders (lower left photo).

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Blue-throated Hummingbird

Blue-throated Hummingbird

Size: The Blue-throated Hummingbird is the largest hummer at about 5.25 inches with a long and straight black bill. It has the largest wingspan of any hummingbird (8 inches). When many hummers are present, the Blue Throat (and the Magnificent) will stand out sharply because of their size.

Identifying Characteristics: The sexes are very similar in every respect except that the male has the "blue throat." Both have thin white stripes above and below the eye. Both have uniformly dark gray bodies. It's tail feathers are an iridescent blue which you can see from the photos above.

Habitat: Shady mountain woodlands and canyons where water is present. So it may migrate into normally dryer areas when there is abundant rainfall. Likes sycamores and maples though where there is water can be found among conifers as well.

Range: Mexico, with occasional summer visits to the Madrean Sky Islands of Southern Arizona.

Seasons: The Blue-throated is most numerous in Arizona from late April through September. However, they can sometimes be found at the Portal and Ramsey Canyon feeders during winter months.

Where to Find: The Blue -throated is much less common than the Magnificent. A reliable spot is Beatty's Orchard in Miller Canyon, in the Huachuca Mountains (though it is not always there on a daily basis even in the summer). It will be found in the upper feeder site across the canyon's creek. It is a year round resident at the Cave Creek Ranch feeders (in Portal), so it is a sure bet there. Newly bloomed thistles are a great "feeding ground" for many hummingbirds. So a great place to look as well.

Comments: Usually, there are incredible aerial displays of these large hummers. They have the slowest wingbeat of any North American hummingbird, but because of their enormouos wingspan  move very quickly -- and right in your face.  They are not constantly at the feeders, though. You may have to wait 15 - 20 minutes or more, (if they are in the area) so be patient. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird.

Size: The Black-chinned Hummingbird is a smaller hummer at 3.75 inches but with a slightly longer straight bill.

Identifying Characteristics: The male has a black chin with a violet purple throat. Like most hummers the throat changes color with sunlight. Typically the chin and throat are indistinguishable and appear black. However, when turned, with the proper sunlight you can see the violet purple of the throat as in the  photos on this page. The crown is dark green (appearing black sometimes) so it is easily distinguished from the Anna's which is red. The gorget is not long like the Costa's or Calliope. The tail is white tipped with no orange. The male has no white on its tail. 

Habitat: Open semi-arid areas near water, typical of the Madrean Sky Islands of Southern Arizona.

Range: Western United States and Mexico.Seasons: The Black-chinned Hummingbird spends its summers in the westernmost ten states (including Arizona) and spends its winters in Mexico. It is the most common (abundant) hummingbird in the Madrean Sky Islands of Arizona.

Where to Find: Miller Canyon, Ramsey Canyon, Ash Canyon, and Madera Canyon. They will be the most common hummer you will see in any of those places. Finding them is a sure bet. They aren't frequently found here at The Azure Gate because they prefer a little higher elevation. 

Comments: Black-chins are primarily nectar feeders using a long extendable tongue to feed. This makes them a good pollinator.  They will also eat small insects on occasion.

But, because of their small size they are vulnerable to insect eating birds.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Berylline Hummingbird

Berylline Hummingbird

Photo from Miller Canyon

Photo from Madera Canyon

Size: The Berylline is a mid-sized hummingbird of about 4 inches, with a medium length straight black bill.

Identifying Characteristics: Both male and female adults are predominantly metallic olive green with a rusty gray lower belly. The primary wings and tail are rufous in color and slightly forked. The underwing is also rufous. The male throat is  a slightly darker turquoise green than the female. The top photo is a female. The bottom photo is a male.  These colorings make the Berylline fairly easy to identify.

Habitat: Oak woods and canyons not far from water.

Range:   Forests in Mexico; rare to the United States.  

Seasons:     Year round resident in Sierra Madre, Mexico; occasional sightings in Southern Arizona between April and the end of September.

Where to Find:    This is a hard one to find. During the summer months they could be in Miller Canyon, Madera Canyon, and Cave Creek Canyon. You will want to check the Audubon's Rare Bird Alert and ABA's Birding News to help with the location. (In 2012 there were no reported sightings in the US).

Comments:     They don't come to the United States in large numbers and don't hang around the feeders for long. They come in for 10 to 15 seconds, drink, and then fly off into the trees far away from the feeders. Patience (and luck) are required to spot and photograph them. Those that come to Arizona often come to breed and thus stay close to their nests which are typically 17-35 feet above ground.  Try Miller Canyon first and then the upper feeding areas in Madera Canyon (Kubo Cabins or Chuparosa Inn). 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird.

The Anna's is the most abundant hummingbird here at The Azure Gate Bed and Breakfast. They can be found every day of the year -- including the very rare "snow days" as seen in one of the photos below.

Size: Anna's is a mid-sized hummingbird of about 4 inches, a little more "rounded" (i.e. heavier),  a medium sized straight black bill, and a medium to long tail.

Distinguishing Characteristics: The most distinguishing characteristic of the male is a red crown and  red throat as seen in the first photo. The gorget is somewhat extended at the corners though not nearly as much as the Costa's. The female has a red central patch which can be seen in one of the photos above. (Its central patch does not always appear red).

Habitat:  Wooded canyons, coastal scrub, scrub desert, urban areas, and gardens from sea level to 5,700 feet. Anna's feeds on the nectar of a wide variety of flowers and insects.

Range: Anna's is found along the Pacific Coast as far north as Washington and across to Southern Arizona. 

Seasons: It is typically a year round resident in its range. During summer months some will move to higher elevations and some will migrate to Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico in the winter.

Nests (Arizona): October - June. Nests are often "eye level" to 10 feet in dense mesquite or palo verde trees and beautifully woven into small "cups".  The male usually takes no interest in the nest. 

Where to Find: Anna's is present year round at The Azure Gate Bed and Breakfast and easy to find. Anna's is found at most of the premier Hummingbird Sites as well.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Allen's Hummingbird

Allen's Hummingbird:

Size: Allen's is a small hummingbird (3.5 inches) with medium short all black straight bill.

Distinguishing Characteristics: The Allen's male can be distinguished from the Rufous by its green back and crown. The female Allen's and Rufous cannot be distinguished in the field. The R5 tail feather (rectrix) is slightly narrower in the Allen's (on both male and female). You can see this in the last photo above.

Habitat:  Moist coast and riparian forest and woodland, typically only to 1,000 feet (Arizona the obvious exception). 

Range: Allen's has a very small breeding range which was restricted from the Northern California  to Southern Oregon coast. It's range has been expanding into Southern California over the past few years.  It is occasionally found inland but not when breeding.  Allen's sometimes finds its way into the Madrean Sky Island foothills of Southern Arizona. It's winter range is also quite small being restricted to forest edges in Southern Mexico.

Seasons: In Arizona, it's found primarily in July, August, and September.  It's thought that these are migratory birds headed to their wintering location. Allen's winters in a relatively small area in south-central Mexico.

Where to Find: Allen's is rare to Arizona. The first two photos are from Ash Canyon (in the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains). Ash Canyon B&B has closed but try Ramsey Canyon. The last photo was from WOW Arizona a privately owned residence near the town of Catalina on the northside of the Catalina Mountains (again in the foothills). Allen's have also been reported in Madera Canyon and Patagonia. Keep an eye on the Audubon Society's Rare Bird Alert and the ABA's Birding News for Arizona and New Mexico.  

Comments: Allen's is typically less aggressive than the Rufous. When found in Arizona there are often Rufous around as well. This makes identifying them a little more difficult -- especially the females.