I was very fortunate. I saw hundreds of individual hummingbirds representing twelve species of which nine were lifers including some terrific rarities.
We are so lucky to have a few individuals who put up a bunch of hummingbird feeders, who keep them clean and stocked with fresh sugar water, and who open their yards to the public asking little more than a voluntary donation to the sugar fund. Their names read like a hummingbird hall of fame class: Mary Jo Ballator (Ash Canyon B&B), Tom Beatty (Beatty Guest Ranch, Miller Canyon), Dave Jasper (Portal) and the Paton family (Patagonia). Add to them the Nature Conservancy (both Paton House [with Tucson Audubon] and Ramsey Canyon Preserve) and the proprietors of the Santa Rita Lodge (Madera Canyon) and the birding world is blessed with an extraordinary collection of hummingbird traps. Together, they make it possible for all birders to sit in relative comfort and watch these exquisite birds come into view to feed and play right before our eyes. Imagine what it would be like if we had to go into the mountains and meadows in search of one species at a time! Instead, the birds come to us.
To these people, to the Nature Conservancy and to Tucson Audobon I want to express my deepest gratitude. You gave me an experience I will cherish forever.
Here are the twelve species I saw during my trip. Some photos are better than others, but then again, I'm not a photographer. I just love birds.
These photos were a pleasant surprise because I didn't know I had them. I found them after I came back to Florida and began studying my images from the trip. The first was taken in Portal at the Jasper/Rodrigues yard on Foothills Road. I also saw a Plain-capped Starthroat at Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon, and didn't think I had a decent picture. However, I found the second image below and it was better than I thought. So it was a cause for celebration both to see this rare visitor from Mexico and to have some photos to share with you.
Another rarity seen on this trip was the Lucifer Hummingbird. I was at the Ash Canyon B&B near Sierra Vista when a hummingbird flew in and all of the birders got very excited. But owner Mary Jo Ballator cautioned us to watch out for a hybrid that was coming to her feeders. She called it a "Costifer" because it was a Costa's x Lucifer. Look at the straight bill in the photo below.
|Costa's x Lucifer Hybrid|
|Note the curved bill and long tail of this Lucifer Hummingbird|
|I love that purple!|
I saw Violet-crowned Hummingbirds in the Ramsey Canyon Preserve and again at the Paton House in Patagonia. Sibley says Violet-crowned is "Rare and local, barely enters western North America from Mexico." As far as I'm concerned, I wish they were here all of the time. I love the clean white lower parts, the violet in the head, and that wonderful red bill. Here are the only three photos I was able to get.
All of the hummingbirds I saw in Arizona were beautiful. But for me, the Broad-billed stands out above the rest. In the right light, its gaudy colors flash in jewel-like brilliance. They were everywhere I went, so I have LOTS of photos of Broad-billed Hummingbirds. Here are a few of them.
|Two at once!|
|This guy is still pretty young, but he's going to be spectacular!|
|Can you see how the Broad-billed Hummingbird got its name?|
|It's like a little kid went crazy with vibrantly-colored crayons!|
This is another of the rare visitors from Mexico, and I only saw it at Tom Beatty's Guest Ranch in Miller Canyon near Sierra Vista. This was the star of the day, and all of us nearly jumped out of our seats when it made its first appearance. First the male came to a favorite perch in a tree right above one of the feeders. Then he came down and feasted. While we were excitedly buzzing away about him, a female showed up! She is in the third photo below.
|Is it safe down there?|
|What a striking bird! He was the main attraction of an incredible day.|
|And she is lovely too!|
I saw the Blue-throated Hummingbird at the Southwestern Research Station in the Chiricahua Mountains. I was really disappointed in the one photo I was able to take of it. You can see the poor-quality shot below:
|Too much shadow and not enough focus!|
|Note the fanned tail showing the large white spots of the bird on the right. That's a characteristic pose of the species.|
The Magnificent Hummingbird is big and gorgeous, but I found it hard to photograph. It's so dark that it was tough to display the details that make this such a wonderful sight. Fortunately, I saw them frequently. I'm absurdly pleased with the first photo showing its gorget to its full advantage.
|The white on the tail suggests this is a young male.|
|The male often appears all dark.|
|The female has the pale throat.|
|The Magnificent is much larger, but the Black-chinned has that stylish, rarely seen purple bib.|
I saw Anna's Hummingbirds only on the day I split between Beatty's Guest Ranch in Miller Canyon and the Ash Canyon B&B. Who doesn't love the stunning red "Yosemite Sam Mustache" proudly displayed by the male? On the other hand, the female is really quite lovely in her emerald, black and gray.
|I got lucky with the light here.|
|A micro-second earlier the entire head flashed bright red.|
|I believe this is the female Anna's.|
The Black-chinned was the most abundant hummingbird at all of the feeders I visited. They were easy to pick out due to their characteristic tail-pumping when hovering. However, it was really hard to get their bi-colored gorget in a photo. Typically it would look all black and the lovely purple bib would seem to disappear. You can see it displayed in the photo in the section devoted to the Magnificent Hummingbird (above) and in the photo below.
|Look! His eye is closed!|
|This is another screen shot from a video.|
|Another Black-chinned Hummingbird whose purple bib wasn't showing|
At first glance, the Broad-tailed Hummingbird looks a little like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird we see here in the east all summer long. In the first photo below you can see a little rufous area that turns into a wonderful rusty-red spot on the top of the outer tail feathers. You can also see hints of rufous on the sides of the birds in some of the other photos below. I was really lucky with my photos of this species - and they were everywhere. Enjoy.
|I loved seeing that rusty area in the tail.|
|That rosy-red gorget is so beautiful in the right light!|
|This picture is just too cute.|
|Nice posing -- you ought to be a model!|
|Mom! He's sticking his tongue out at me!|
During the morning I spent at Beatty's Guest Ranch, I was lucky enough to hear Jon Dunn talk about the Rufous/Allen identification issues. His mantra was "Look at the gorget. If it isn't fully developed, forget about it." Later, he also spoke about how examining the tail can help. In these photos, there was no doubt - full gorget and green backs equal Allen's Hummingbird.
|The white upper breast is so striking when surrounded by such vivid colors.|
|Here you can see the gorget flaring out like a waxed mustache.|
|Look at the gorget - orange in the light and green in the shade.|
On the other hand, a full gorget and a rufous back adds up to a Rufous Hummingbird - an incredibly beautiful sight. Here are a few beauties.
|That orange back is amazing!|
|Look at that tail. We'll talk about it more below.|
|The Rufous Hummingbird that visited my Florida yard two years ago didn't look like this at all.|
Allen's vs. Rufous Hummingbirds
And then there were those lovely little orange and green things that did not have complete gorgets. Is there any way I can tell which species is which from these photos? If so, I haven't figured it out yet.
|This bird looks like it's going to break out in orange all over the place.|
|This bird's back seems to be a firmly established green.|
The Tail End
Look at these two tails and the one four photos up. I know for sure that the one above is from a Rufous Hummingbird. I can see a full gorget and a bright orange back. But on the bird immediately below, I can't see its back at all. Yet that tail looks just like the one above. Am I safe in assuming this is a Rufous as well? But then there is the tail of the bird on the left in the screen shot at the bottom. It's very different, having a black band across the end of the tail and some white at the tips of the two outer tail feathers. So I ran to the Peterson hummingbird guide and found ... that I can't tell a darn thing for sure. Immatures and females of both species have that black band. But then I stared at the white tips on the outer tail feathers. It seems like the white is confined to only the outer two feathers (R4 and R5 to you guys who actually know this stuff). If that's true (and it's hard to tell here) the lower photo may be an immature male Allen's. And wouldn't that be cool if I actually figured that out? But I'm not betting on it.