Friday, December 5, 2008

Three Rufous Hummingbirds

After the main Ruby-throated Hummingbird banding season, I typically spend a lot of time (and miles) chasing down and banding other species in Michigan, Ohio, and northern Indiana. Reports typically come in during October and November, but sometimes as early as August and as late as December. Last year (2007) I banded a record four in Michigan, but significantly fewer (two) in Ohio and none in northern Indiana. In 2006 there were again only two in Ohio, one in Indiana and none in Michigan. Prior to this recent dip in numbers, 5-6 in Ohio was expected and at least two in northern Indiana. So far this year, I've banded three Rufous Hummingbirds, one in Ohio and two in Michigan. One other Rufous was banded in southwestern Ohio by Tim Tolford and one Rufous was banded in southern Indiana by Cathie Hutcheson. Here, I provide photos and brief details of the three Rufous Hummingbirds I've banded so far.

Adult female Rufous Hummingbird in Bexley, Franklin Co., OH
First Observed: mid-October 2008 (?), Last Observed: 5 December 2008+

On November 14, I arrived at the home of JoAnn LaMuth, where several local birders, and a reporter and photographer from the Columbus Dispatch had assembled. Now, 95% of the Rufous Hummingbirds I've banded have taken 5-10 minutes to enter the trap. This one took a full 2 1/2 hours! This allowed us to discuss many, many aspects of hummingbird biology, and birding, with the newspaper folks. About a minute before I was ready to quit, the bird arrived (5 hours after the last sighting) and went into the trap. Note in the photo below that she is missing quite a few feathers on her lower throat. This is something I associate with a minor mite infestation, but I can't say for sure what the cause might be on this bird.

The shapes and widths of the tail feathers are important criteria for identifying these birds. The second tail feather from the center on this bird was broken off on one side, and very slightly "notched" on the other side, which is characteristic of Rufous. The width of the outer tail feather was 3.63mm, which also is characteristically wide enough for Rufous.

Adult female Rufous Hummingbird in Shields, Saginaw Co., MI
First Observed: mid-October 2008 (?), Last Observed: 5 December 2008+
This bird, at the home of Bernie Coleman, was very cooperative, going into the trap within 10 minutes of my setting up the trap. She had a total of 17 iridescent gorget feathers, which is about typical of an adult female (ranging from 7-21).

Females are consistently entirely green above, from forehead to tail tip, with no rufous visible on the base of the central tail feathers.

The second tail feather of this female was more noticeably notched than the Ohio bird, and the outer tail feather was measured at 3.48 mm (it looks narrower in the photo below due to the angle I'm holding it at), wide enough to confirm Rufous. This bird also showed a molt pattern on the primaries that I've come to consider normal in this region, as 95% of them have shown it. The outer 4 primaries were old and all the inners were new and recently replaced.

Adult male Rufous Hummingbird in Holland, Ottawa Co., MI
First Observed: 7 November 2008, Last Observed: 5 December 2008+

It has been a while since I banded an adult male Rufous in the region. This bird was coming to the feeders of Nancy Gillis, who photographed it quite nicely, and who generously allowed me to come and band the bird on December 1. This bird was very anxious to go into the trap, and flew up before I had the door propped open. Within two minutes, he was in-hand being measured and photographed. He had the full gorget of an adult male, though the lighting did not allow the iridescent color to be seen.
The entirely rufous-brown back made the identification easy. Note the snow in the background, almost certainly not the first this adult has seen in its lifetime.

The pointed tail feathers without any white tips is also characteristic of an adult male. And, the second tail feather is described as "notched" in this species, but as the photo shows it appears more like a couple of bites have been taken out of it. Weird.

Whenever possible, I try to allow the homeowners to "release" their hummingbird. In the photo below, Nancy got a few seconds of "hand time" with her adult male Rufous, which bolted into a large tree in the yard and was back at the feeder (trap removed) within minutes.


lynn said...

We spotted our first rufous yesterday morning. He stuck out like a sore thumb next to the ruby throats. He stayed about an hour before flying off. What a great surprise to have this little visitor around. Hope he comes back. We live in southern Indiana and were very surprised to see the rufous hummimgbird in our state.

Brenda said...

Not sure if you are still looking for Rufous hummingbirds, but we have one that has stayed at our feeder all summer. I do have a hibiscus and salvia so maybe that is why they like it here.We live in Battle Creek, MI.