Blog stats

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An unexpected visitor

The change in the weather this week has brought a new wave of migrants to the yard.  Recently my yard had been almost devoid of hummingbirds.  Only two or three remained, but yesterday, I could count six in the backyard alone and if I could count six, for sure, there were probably several more than that around.  The little guys are so active and so fast that it is hard to get an accurate count, but I saw six individuals in one glance so I know there were at least that many.

And in those six individuals, there was one that was not like the others.

As I watched the birds joust for position, I noticed that one was particularly vocal and that her vocalizations were different from what I'm used to hearing from Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.  Finally, I was able to get a fix on her with the binoculars and I could see that, in fact, it was a female Rufous Hummingbird, the very first one I have ever recorded in my yard!

Excitedly, I ran into the house to get my camera and spent the next hour or so trying desperately to get a recognizable and usable picture of the bird.

  My first efforts were not terribly successful.  The light was always wrong, but here at least you can get a sense of her rufous sides and the typical iridescent orange spot on the throat.

  When she took flight, I could see a bit more of her rufous coloring.

Finally, I got lucky when the bird went to feed on a 'Texas Star' hibiscus plant.  She was in the sunlight then and I was able to get a series of shots that showed her identifiable field marks.

She approaches a blossom.

And moves in for a snack.

Again, here you can see the rufous on her wings.

She really gets into her meal!

She backs off to come from another angle.

Wonderful little bird!

She really enjoyed that hibiscus blossom.

Rufous Hummingbirds have the reputation of being perhaps the feistiest, most cantankerous member of a very feisty, cantankerous family.  This little lady did nothing to diminish that reputation.  She staked out a spot in the old apple tree near a large Hamelia patens (hummingbird bush) that is absolutely full of the tubular red blossoms that hummingbirds love and she defended that spot against all comers all day long.  She frequently went to the hummingbird bush to feed and chased away any of the other hummers who tried to horn in.

The Rufous is a western hummingbird.  This is not a normal part of its range, but it does wander during migration.  Also, in recent years, it has been expanding its range, and more and more it is being seen in our area.  These hummers can tolerate colder weather than our resident Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and they have been known to spend the winter in this area.  For the past couple of years, there have been Rufous Hummingbirds reported in my zip code on the Great Backyard Bird Count which takes place in February every year.  Wouldn't it be something if my little visitor decided to stay and I were able to list her on my GBBC report next February?

Well, I can dream, but for now I am just thrilled to have been able to report her here in September.  It was a very exciting day for the Backyard Birder!  


  1. She's gorgeous! Your photos are wonderful. I wonder now if some of the female hummers I have seen are in fact Rufous, and I just didn't notice because of bad lighting. It seems I'm always looking out and the sun is behind them when I'm watching them.

  2. The little critters are just so fast and almost never still. It's really hard to get a good look at them, Jayne. I'd been hoping to find a Black-chinned among my Ruby-throats, and there could well be one there but so far I haven't been able to differentiate it. I was very surprised to find the Rufous!

  3. I found you again...darn newspapers anyway.