Monday, August 27, 2018

The Flying Jewels of the Tuolumne River, the Hummingbirds

Our local environment hosts around five species of hummingbirds, although the Calliope or Costa's Hummingbirds have rarely been sighted (especially not by me). But hummingbirds are common in the area, as the moderate climate provides at least some food during the winter, and plentiful food during other parts of the year.
The Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) is a summertime visitor, and they've been regulars at our backyard feeders. I was sitting on the porch last evening and had this one checking me out. They are characterized by...a black chin! But it is the purple iridescence of their head and neck feathers that makes them look like flying amethyst crystals in the right light. I've only caught the color a few times in images.
The Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) is a fall and spring migrant in our region. The rich golden color is distinctive. They've been reported at only four other locations in our county so far this fall, but I've been following a small crowd of them in the wild tobacco shrubs near the Waterford water treatment plant, and a little ways downstream. I saw the first ones on August 7, and they are continuing to argue with each other right up through this afternoon. These flying gold nuggets will be missed when they move on south soon.
The Rufous Hummingbirds have a long migration, traveling from Alaska to Mexico with the seasons. When considering their size, their migration is the longest of any bird. Some birds go farther, but the Rufous travels 78 million body lengths; for a human, that would be just over three trips around the world!
The resident hummingbird in our region is the Anna's Hummingbird (Calpte anna). That makes hummingbird identification during the winter rather simple. They have a magenta iridescence when it is visible.

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