Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Winter Hummingbirds in Arizona

While reviewing my photos from this last fall, I found that I had forgotten about some of the photos of hummingbirds that I took and decided a blog post might be in order to show some of the various stages of what some of these marvelous little birds can look like at other times of the year.  It is uncommon that one will see the various plumage variances in field guides and on apps.  Field guides do not always show the various stage of plumage molt and lighting plays a big factor in seeing the iridescence that is depicted in field guides or apps.

Here in the Phoenix area, we have 2 species that can be found as year-round residents; the very common Anna's Hummingbird and the stunning Costa's Hummingbird.  Anna's are by far the most common, but Costa's can be reliably found in the right habitats.  We do have the occasional rarities in the winter as well.  We have had records of Broad-billed, Rufous, Calliope, and most recently a Broad-tailed Hummingbird that has spent winter in the Phoenix area.  

At the beginning of each species, I have included a brief note as to how these 2 species got their names that will hopefully give you a bit of insight on the background of the names of these  hummingbirds.  Now, let's move on to some photos of them that will show how different they can appear.  Lighting plays a lot in how we see them.  The males have bright and colorful gorgets, but only when the light is refracted off of them.  Many times, all we see is what appears to be a black gorget.  When an immature male begins to molt into adult plumage, there is frequently a sprinkling of  the iridescence that we can sometime see.  With females, there is not as much of a noticeable difference.

Anna's Hummingbird 

 Anna's Hummingbird was named after Anna Masséna, Princess d'Essling, Duchess of Rivoli, who was the wife of Prince Victor Masséna, the Duke of Rivoli.  And if you saw the connection to the name of Rivoli's Hummingbird, then you are correct.  Rivoli's Hummingbird got its name from the Duke of Rivoli and the Anna's Hummingbird was named after his wife. 

 Adult male - Note the light refracting off the crown and left side of throat appear to be goldish/green.
 Adult male, but note the red behind the eye and the rest of the gorget and head appear black.
 Back looks green in this photo, but note the next photo.
 The back appears gold in this photo.  All a part of lighting and a good reason to not depend on color all the time for identifying birds.
Adult male
 Immature male just beginning to molt.
Same bird as preceding photo, but a different angle.
 Immature male, note the magenta colored feathers which is a part of the molting process.
Same bird as preceding photo, different angle.
 Immature male, still has a way to to go on its molt.

Costa's Hummingbird

Costa's Hummingbird was named after Louis Marie Panteleon Costa, Marquis de Beau-Regard, who was a Sardinian aristocrat and an accomplished amateur ornithologist. 

 In this photo gorget appears black.
 In this photo, most of the gorget appears black, but note the purple on the tips of the gorget.

 An immature male in molt.
 The same immature male as above.
 Another immature male, and below is the same bird but a different angle.

Rufous Hummingbird

Just this past week I had the pleasure of hosting a Rufous Hummingbird in my back yard for 4 days.  It arrived before the first day of spring so technically it visited my yard in the winter.  This species is a long distance migrant, wintering in southwestern Mexico and breeding in the Pacific Northwest and all the way through British Columbia and even Alaska.  They migrate approximately 2500 miles twice a year.  Pretty remarkable for such a tiny bird!  Twice before, I had a Rufous Humingbird visit my yard and both visits were in August on their way south and both birds were one-day wonders in my yard and my feeders.  This was the first spring migrant that I had and she decided to stay for 4 days!  They are notoriously feisty, and she was no exception.  She quickly took charge of my back yard and the resident Anna's did not know how to respond.  It was quite enjoyable to watch one for a longer period of time than normal.

If you love hummingbirds and you live in Arizona, you have a lot of opportunities to see several species.  And if you have a home, putting out hummingbird feeders is a great way to attract them to your yard.  Even apartment dwellers can get them to visit a feeder on a balcony.  They are remarkable little birds with a lot of energy and personality.  


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Birding in Southeastern Arizona

In August of 2018, just a couple of weeks after my return from Ecuador, I had the pleasure of taking some of my friends from eastern parts of the US, that I have known for a few years, birding in southeastern Arizona.  The first party was Brian and Larry DeAtley Ellyson and Brian's mother Judi Ellyson.  The second party was Jim Austin-Cole and Brian Ahern-Wilson.  Both trips covered almost the same areas and both trips took up 3 days of traveling around.  There were a few differences in what we visited though.  Both trips included a trip to the Chiricahua Mountains.  I really had a fantastic time showing them parts of Arizona that I do not get to visit as often as I would like.  We got to see a lot of different birds and it is amazing what one finds on one trip and what one finds on another trip just a few days later.  These trips were not the first times I had taken them birding in Arizona and I hope it won't be the last.  Now I have to find time to head back east in the future and let them show me some of their birds!

Birding in Arizona is Spectacular!

First part will be photos of birds, since that is probably what most readers of this blog would like to see. And birding in southeastern Arizona is one of the premiere spots for birders all over the world come to visit in the pursuit of a lot of specialty birds.  Further on down the post, I will add some photos of some arthropods and maybe even a mammal.
Red-faced Warbler

 'Mexican' Spotted Owl

 Eastern Meadowlark


Western Wood-Pewee chicks in nest, almost ready to fledge.

 Blue Grosbeak

 Common Ground Dove

 Five-striped Sparrow - Fledgling

Five-striped Sparrow - Adult

 Hooded Oriole

Montezuma Quail

And Now the Hummingbirds!

Hummingbirds are one of Arizona's specialties.  No other state in the United States has more species of hummingbirds than Arizona, so of course they are always a family of birds to be in the spotlight.

 Lucifer Hummingbird - Male

 Lucifer Hummingbird - Female

Lucifer Hummingbird - Male

Broad-billed Hummingbird - Male

 Broad-tailed Hummingbird - Male

 Blue-throated Hummingbird - Male

 Rivoli's Hummingbird - Male

Rufous Hummingbird - Male

Now for some photos of some other interesting creatures that we found on these 2 trips.  I do have a bit of a soft spot for butterflies, but just about anything that moves intrigues me and is worthy of photos at times.

 Golden-headed Scallopwing

 Marine blue

Tailed Orange

 Dull Firetip

 Golden-banded Skipper

Taxiles Skipper

Sooty Dancer

Flame Skimmer

 Desert Blonde Tarantula

 Bee Fly Species

Red Tachinid Fly-(Adejeania vexatrix)


This had to have been one of the most satisfying weeks that I have had exploring southeastern Arizona.  Something new around every bend and even though some of the places were the same, it was a different cast of characters that greeted us.  I hope Brian, Larry, Judi, Jim, and Brian enjoyed the time as well.