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30 • JULY 2018

Male broad tailed hummingbird (Photo by Keith Bauer courtesy of Hawks Aloft Inc.)

Roufous hummingbird (Photo by Keith Bauer courtesy of Hawks Aloft Inc.)


What Was That? Summer hummers! Part One


sharp trill is your only warning. A second later, something whizzes past your head. Jerking your head around, you see nothing. Have you experienced that this summer? If so, you were probably wearing a bright red hat or shirt and caught the eye of a male broad-tailed hummingbird. Tiny, jewel-colored hummingbirds may be high on birders’ lists of favorite birds. They are mine. In this month’s Summer Hummers Part One, Anita Powell of Lincoln County Bird Club (LCBC)  identifies the four most common species seen here in southern New Mexico, along with a couple of rarer sightings and includes tips for attracting

and feeding them. But first, what are we looking at? At my Lincoln County feeder, the earliest arrival is the broadtailed. He typically trills his arrival then hovers in the same area on my deck where my feeder hung last year. Broad-tails are iridescent emerald green with greenish or buffy flanks and a white chest. Males have a distinctive rose-magenta gorget (throat) that is best seen in full sunlight. Despite his red throat, do not mistake him for a ruby-throated hummingbird, which is a smaller species and native to the eastern United States, not in our Southwest. The broad-tail’s most distinctive ID is

his loud metallic-sounding trill made by the primary feathers of his wings. Females are smaller, lack the rose throat and do not trill. Broad-tailed hummers prefer high mountain meadows along streams for nesting. Black-chinned hummingbirds are slender compared to broadtailed and prefer lower elevations. In Lincoln County, find them in the Hondo Valley and Capitan areas. Males are also emerald green and have a black throat with a thin iridescent purple base that is very difficult to see. These birds are summer residents and nesters. Females are smaller, less brilliant and lack the colored gorget. Feisty rufous hummingbirds

are extremely territorial. Arriving later than the broad-tails, rufous hummingbirds defend feeders or patches of flowers by slamming into other birds. Males are bright coppery orange with a bright, rust-red gorget. Females are green, smaller and lack the gorget. Find them in the highest mountain meadows up to 11,000 feet as well as at your feeders. “Hanging multiple feeders in different locations will discourage rufous hummingbirds from dominating just one or two feeders,” Anita said. Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the U.S. at about three and a quarter inches and weighs about the same as a ping pong ball. The green male has a distinctive rosy-purple gorget with feathers that sweep out to the sides of the throat. Don’t mistake him for a broad-tailed; he’s much smaller and his gorget is more dramatic. A pair of binoculars help with the ID of this tiny bird. And, yes, females are smaller, duller and lack the gorget. He’s not called “magnificent” for nothing. The magnificent hummingbird is the second largest hummingbird north of Mexico. The male is large, about five inches, very dark, and best identified by an iridescent green gorget, purple crown, and a white dot behind the eye. Females lack the purple gorget. An uncommon summer resident, this hummingbird will visit your feeder staying just seconds before flying away. This species nests in the Sierra Blanca area. I have seen the magnificent only once in my 45 years of living here. Often mistaken for a Magnificent hummingbird is the elusive Blue-throated Hummingbird, the largest hummingbird north of Mexico. At five and a quarter inches, this species prefers quiet, shady mountain canyons with streams and seldom visits feeders. The male is overall dark with a prominent white eye-stripe and cobalt blue gorget. Females lack the blue throat. The above descriptions are courtesy of Anita and Dan Ray of the Smokey Bear Ranger Station in Ruidoso. He cited  as his source for handouts he shared with LCBC.

“It is interesting that in our southern New Mexico mountains we have both the largest and smallest hummingbird species in the U.S.,” Anita said. Keen to enjoy hummers? They’re attracted to bright colors, so plant bright, colorful flowers – your local nursery is your best source for species in your area — or mix up sugar water and fill several feeders. Birders agree that hummers seem especially attracted to red — hence you might get dive-bombed while wearing a red cap or shirt. The Albuquerque Journal’s Tracey Hobson’s recipe for homemade nectar is easy — one part sugar (not honey or artificial sweetener) to four parts water. “Set a pot on the stove, bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat, add the sugar and stir it up so all the sugar dissolves. Allow this concoction to cool completely before you fill your feeders,” Hobson said. Never use food coloring to make the mix red, experts warn. The color of the liquid in the feeder doesn’t matter, just the color of the flower on the feeder. When hanging feeders, do not place them in a spot that receives full sun all day. Heated-up nectar sours rapidly. Usually it is best to hang the feeder under a portal or from hooks under trees. Position feeders so you can watch them from several vantage points. “Always take in feeders at night to discourage squirrels, bears or other sweet-loving critters,” Anita said. “And discard any cloudy solution and wash the feeder thoroughly inside and out.” Ready to welcome hummers to your summer? For more info, check out hummingbirds/ for feeding and planting tips and for apps. Next month, we’ll focus on hummer photography and delve into the fascinating world of this unique little bird. Novice birder and freelance writer Yvonne Lanelli ( of Lincoln County remembers her first hummer encounter. “I was dive-bombed by a male broadtailed who liked my red cap!”

Desert Exposure - July 2018  
Desert Exposure - July 2018