Sunday, March 8, 2020

Hummingbirds Galore in the Cuyamacas

This post is a modified version of an article I wrote for the Cuyamaca Woods Property Owners Association newsletter on March 8, 2020.

It may still technically be winter (as of this writing) but we have no lack of hummingbirds here in Cuyamaca Woods. I took my hummingbird feeders down last fall in anticipation of winter, snow, ice and generally hummingbird-unfriendly conditions, as many people do who live in northern climes. But I noticed a male Anna’s Hummingbird on and off throughout the cold and stormy times, seemingly never really absent (although I did not keep formal daily records!).

The San Diego County Bird Atlas (Philip Unitt, 2004), describes Anna’s Hummingbirds as less abundant in dry natural habitats in late summer and fall, and there is evidence that some migration to Arizona can happen then. Following this time, Anna’s Hummingbirds typically increase in the mountains in December and January.

Here are some images of Anna's Hummingbirds taken here in Cuyamaca Woods in recent months:

Anna's Hummingbird, male. March 2020.

Anna's Hummingbird, female. April 2019.

Anna's Hummingbird, immature male, with blotchy pink feathers appearing on his face. October 2019.

I put my nectar feeders back out around the beginning of March and immediately saw a male Anna’s visiting. Then by Friday, March 6 and the subsequent weekend, more and more Anna’s were seen, peaking at about seven individuals. But simultaneously the “word” got out even further and Rufous (and possibly Allen’s) Hummingbirds showed up. On Mar. 6 at dusk, four orange-backed male Rufous Hummingbirds clustered around a feeder right at dusk, fueling up for the night. A male and a female Rufous/Allen’s appeared earlier on that day (these two species are hard to distinguish in the field when dealing with females or males with greenish backs, as this male had).

Rufous Hummingbird, male (with orange back). March 2020.

Selasphorus sp. hummingbird (Rufous or Allen's), with greenish back (not clearly visible here, but very visible in the image below). March 2020.

The same male as shown above. The outer tail feathers' width would help identify this bird to species but I was unable to get a good image of them.

These Rufous and Allen’s Hummingbirds are migrating north from Mexico to the northwestern U.S., W. Canada and S. Alaska! On their way north, they typically stay further west; thus we see them more on this northward leg of the round trip. When they return south, they usually pass over the Rocky Mountains in the interior west, so we see fewer of them here during the summer.

Other hummingbird species we might see at various times in Cuyamaca Woods include the Costa’s Hummingbird, males of which are bedecked with a flamboyant purple gorget (head feathers), and the Black-chinned Hummingbird, males displaying black on the chin and lateral sides of the face, with a purple band on the neck. The much less frequently seen Calliope Hummingbird might make an appearance here in spring. This species shows a migration pattern similar to the Rufous Hummers, described previously. I have only seen this species once, in summer in southeastern Arizona (Portal). I am hoping for one this season at my feeders!

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