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Ruby-throated Hummingbird

There is a great variety of hummingbird species found around Utopia. These pictures are mostly poor, but we hope they give an idea of the magic of hummingbirds. We've added some text about the status and ID recently (July 2011) as well as some new photos.

Hummers are fast, beautiful, fascinating, and easy to see closely, so great birds to watch. Males have iridescent feathers in the throat called a gorget that can be spectacular when seen in the right light (over the shoulder best) but they just appear dark when not refracting light.

Rufous Hummingbird

They can shine like neon at the right angle

When available some 90% of their diet is small bugs, often gathered at flowers (it's not just nectar they are there for) and they are great pollinators. You can often see them 'flycatching' though gnatcatching is more like it.

The numbers of individuals locally can be staggering, we've had a thousand plus individuals daily at our 8 feeders on Seco Ridge, consuming over a gallon of fluid and 2+ lbs. of sugar daily! Hummingbirds are driving the price of sugar up!   :)

The payoff is, besides the intimate study opportunities, and the entertainment, you might attract a stray vagrant rarity, by having all the gang over for lunch regularly. Like any and all birds, the best way to find something rare is to learn your regular common stuff so when something unusual shows up, it stands out to you. Either write a description while looking at it, or better, take a picture.

The last thing in the world you want to do is to try to explain something like this to experts:

hybrid Hummingbird

hybrid Black-chinned x Ruby-throated Hummingbird

If you see something odd, unusual, or different, besides letting me know if you are local please, note bill color if any, tail pattern, and head and throat pattern.  Over 99% of what is here is Black-chinned or Ruby-throated, so learning them first is the key to identifying anything else.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird From Lost Maples to Utopia 13 species of hummingbirds have occurred, which is outstanding diversity in the U.S.. In our yard in the last 5-6 years I've seen 11 species! The overwhelming majority of what is here though is Black-chinned Hummingbird. Ruby-throated is 2nd most common and note windows of presence. Rufous is annual in small numbers, the distant third most regular species here. Broad-tailed and Calliope are scarce but about annual in fall in very low numbers (1-2). Those are the 5 types pretty sure to occur here in any given year, and 99.99% of what you see here around Utopia will be one of those five species.

But in that other .01%, lies the reward for good hard study. It can hardly get any more exciting than the rarities, as it seems just about anything known in the U.S. could show up. The other types that have been found here are Green Violetear (from Mexico), Blue-throated, Lucifer, Costa's, Allen's, Anna's, Broad-billed, and White-eared. But I can't buy a Buff-bellied, nearest one is a single Uvalde record in fall. The best time for unusual things is fall, which for them is mostly July to October.

Remember, it only takes one good hummer to make your day. Like this one:

Lucifer Hummingbird

Male Lucifer Hummingbird at Seco Ridge, June 29, 2011
Maybe 11th hill country (Edw. Plt.) record, 1st Uvalde Co. record.
(couple more pix of it all the way at bottom)

Now for some hummer pix and a little bit of info about the status and identification of most of the local types.

Black-chinned Hummingbird
Great form! Looks like a full-power acceleration stroke is next. This is what happens if you have too much sugar. Audubon painted some like this and people said, "they don't really do that." A great watcher far ahead of his time.

We'll start with the two common species. Our most common hummingbird locally is Black-chinned, the abundant breeding species present primarily March through August. This is THE baseline hummer here, as it is what most of them are. Females and immatures are the standard issue hummingbird green above and dirty white below. On both sexes the green though is somewhat dingy, dirty, muted, grayish appearing due to usually having gray edges to most of the green feathers, so they are not as bright green as Ruby-throated. Immatures at first have very contrasting gray heads so are easy to tell from the females in May and June. The bill is long, longer than head, and other than just fledged young, clearly drooped somewhat.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird (immature or female)

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird, female
A slow backlit exposure to show wing and tail movement...
this is close to how our eyes see them.
Note Black-chinned nearly constantly wags its tail.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird, female
A faster exposure to freeze movement
creates a different image of them.

Fem. Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird (immature)

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird immature in late June
just acquiring first few green crown feathers.

Black-chinned Hummingbird Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird, adult male,
usually the throat appears black.

Black-chinned Hummingbird Black-chinned Hummingbird Black-chinned Hummingbird

When you are lucky you get to see the purple.

Black-chinned Hummingbird       Black-chinned Hummingbird

Here's a closeup of the gorget feathers.

Some imm. male Black-chinned Hummingbird can start getting
some purple throat feathers in about 60 days (June),
but others may take longer.

albino hummingbird

Albino (mostly) hummingbird at Utopia July 15-18, 2011
was believed to be a Black-chinned Hummingbird.

Ruby-throated occur mostly from April 15 to May 15, and again in fall from early August to October, peaking around mid-September when the first cold front passes. While most pass through, I am sure a few nest here during the spring, some are present early April to late May. I have seen birds I am sure were fresh juveniles (and had females) in early June more than once. Some females were banded near Leakey in May with eggs. Which means they weren't migrating, they were nesting. Note bill unlike Black-chinned is short and straight, equal to head length, not longer than head, or drooped.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds - females and or imm. males

Green above and white below is a theme amongst female or immature hummingbirds as are some white tipped tail feathers. On Ruby-throat the bill is shorter and straighter than all but just-out-of-the-nest Black-chinned, and it lacks gray feather edges of Black-chinned so is much brighter green without the dingy look.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds - females and or imm. males

Here are some adult males, no ID issues here. Much longer tailed than Black-chinned, so wing tips when at rest much further from tail tip than adult male Black-chinned (1/2" versus 1/4" in Black-chin) They are also much darker, more emerald or forest green without the dirty dingy gray cast of Black-chinned.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

look at that long tail

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Rufous is annual, mostly in fall, mostly immature or female plumaged birds, though some adult males occur (mostly in July-Aug.).; I've seen as many as 10 Rufous here over the course of an an entire fall. It is the most likely wintering hummer here. Other than the nearly solid rufous adult males, they are green above like other hummers, but with well saturated rufous on sides, and in base of tail. 10% of banded Selasphorus (Rufous-Allen's) wintering on the Texas coast are Allen's, the lookalike sibling species. I've seen a couple green-backed adult male Allen's here.

Rufous Hummingbird

adult male Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

same adult male Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird     Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird - imm. female

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous or Allen's Hummingbird
Non-adult males are best labelled generically as
Selasphorus species unless definitive characters
like outer tail feather width/shape are determined.


Hummingbird at Flower

In an average year one or two Calliope occur, most are immatures or females in fall, I know of only one spring record, an adult male April 2011 at Lost Maples, photographed by a yankee visitor and seen by all the staff and visitors for the day.

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird
America's smallest bird near Utopia, Sept. 05, immature or female, note pastel peachy sides like Broad-tailed. You can also see at the posterior end of the bird, the gray tip of the near wing, the black area is the tail, then the pale is the underside of the other wingtip. Note wings extend past short tail.

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope (left) and imm. male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Then note it is smaller than a Ruby-throat, note how long even an immature male Ruby-throat tail is past wings.

Calliope Hummingbird

Adult male Calliope Hummingbird at Seco Ridge Aug 21, 2009.
Over 90+% of those that occur here are immatures or females.

On average I see about one or two Broad-tailed per year, but have had four in a fall, and it has wintered here.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Immature Broad-tailed Hummingbird note pastel peach-buff sides, not saturated like Rufous or Allen's.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Immature male Broad-tailed Hummingbird note limited rufous in base of outer rectrices (tail feathers).

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Immature Broad-tailed Hummingbird
peachy on sides, rufous in base of tail,
bright grassy green, big

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Adult male Broad-tailed Hummingbird has a rose pink gorget and its wings whistle like a cricket when it flies

Anna's is far less than annual, I've seen it only 2 of 7 falls here so far. A late-season bird, IF it occurs at all.

Anna's Hummingbird Anna's Hummingbird Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird - hatch-year male digiscoped near Utopia, Nov. 11-14, '05

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird #2 in '05, Dec. 3-9.
The gray underparts is a tip-off to look closer,
as are things like any odd (especially late) date.

And for suffering through all that ......
Here is your hard earned reward!

Don't expect one of these, but knowing what might occur, and what they look like, will help you recognize something different. That is the benefit of study, you'll know when something is different, and when you better get a picture.

White-eared Hummingbird

A female White-eared Hummingbird at Utopia, July 21-22, 2007
was 2nd hill country (Edw. Plt.) record, and 1st Uvalde Co.
record, besides the stuff yard list dreams are made of.

Then this was a 5 day wonder June 28 to July 2, 2011 (though surely it was present the morning of July 3)

Lucifer Hummingbird Lucifer Hummingbird

Male Lucifer Hummingbird at Utopia July 1, 2011

Lucifer Hummingbird

same male Lucifer Hummingbird, June 29, 2011 It doesn't get much better than a good hummer!

Whooda thunk you could essentially throw a dart at a random spot here, where every acre looks like a billion next to it, put out some feeders, and attract 11 species of hummingbirds in about 7 years? White-eared and Lucifer at the same place!?! On the plateau? Green Violetear was an expected vagrant, and Costa's was the best one, though rejected by the TBRC since I had no irrefutable evidence. Blew it not getting tape of that call I've heard thousands of times, thought it would stay more than 2 days.

The big message is that there simply must be a lot more going through than what one person sees at one randomly placed feeder bank. I'd expect a station monitored on the river corridor would get way more. Many people are serious hummer feeders in the area, and who knows what all is showing up. The only thing different about this Seco Ridge site is there is a nature nerd here that knows them fairly well.

Perhaps in a decade hummer cams will be set up so folks can monitor stations better.....   :) Imagine a website with a dozen little screens showing different stations anyone could be checking.  " Hey Ed Straight you have a Broad-tail at feeder 3!"   :)

Remember the key is learning Black-chinned and Ruby-throated intimately, so anything else stands out like a sore thumb.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

If you really care about the best for your birds, lose the premade boxed mixes. They are a sales and marketing gimmick. The best the thing you can feed them is 4 parts water to 1 part SUGAR (1 cup sugar to 4 cups water) which most closely exactly duplicates real actual nectar found in flowers. No un-compensated pro or expert uses the pre-made mixes. Clean your feeders weekly with 10% bleach solution, or anytime you see the dreaded black mold. Hang them in a shady spot so the fluid keeps longer. Use a 1-2" wide band of tanglefoot high on the hanger as close to the top as possible (away from the feeder) to keep ants off the feeders. Never put out refrigerated fluid, warm to room temp first.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird
Lighting is everything with hummers, a change of angle and colorless dark can become a luminescent iridescent color show.

There will be more hummingbird photos added to this page in the future!

To see more of my hummingbird photos (like if you can't sleep) visit one of my other websites that have additional pictures.
Mitch's Miscellaneous and scroll down on the front page and click Allen's Hummingbird page link.
Also at:  Harbor Park Pages Go to the bird photos page, and then to Hummingbird photos page.

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All photographs within this site are copyrighted
and may not be used without permission.
All Rights Reserved.
© M. and K. Heindel 2006-2015