Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Calliope Hummingbird!

To those Western birders out there, take your hummingbirds for granted. Out East we're stuck with one species, the Ruby-throated, which is an okay bird. It's pretty. But I want variety. Glancing at a feeder and knowing it's a Ruby-throated automatically because it's a hummingbird is boring. However, a birder once told me that while you guys have hummingbirds, orioles, albatrosses, etc. we have better warblers than you. Ha.

Anyway, North Carolina seems to be a good place for wintering hummingbirds. On the coast we have Ruby-throateds that overwinter, with the occasional Black-chinned or rarely, a Buff-bellied. Here near Charlotte, some of the hummingbird banders think that the city creates a heat island that attracts wintering hummingbirds. Whatever the cause, Rufous Hummingbirds are one of our most common wintering hummers, attracted to feeders.

But sometimes, we get an even better prize- a Calliope Hummingbird. These tiny little midges are pretty common out West, breeding even up in the Rockies, so like kinglets they're pretty cold hardy. Recently an immature male was discovered when the homeowners realized that the wintering Ruby-throated was growing a pink gorget! They called Dwayne Martin, one of the local hummingbird banders, and banded the little guy and confirmed the ID. I was very lucky to be able to see it! The homeowners are excellent people and they had a great backyard. While we waited for the little bird, we watched the variety of birds arriving at their peanut feeder (including Red-bellied Woodpeckers, White-throated Sparrows, and Eastern Bluebirds. The last two species are very unlikely to eat peanuts, but they did!) and in the back, a herd of white-tailed deer browsed. But when the hummngbird arrived, it was a barrage of camera shutters snapping away. The homeowners said that the bird had became wary of the shutter sound after being banded, but apparently he got over it.

Here is the bird himself. A dapper little dude who took his birding paparazzi in stride. 

Due to the overcast day it was hard to get a good picture of his half-grown gorget, but I managed.

Notice the silver band and puffy legs. The feeder was made for the larger Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, who are about an inch or so larger. He was so short he had to hover to feed!

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