Chirps and Cheeps

A Photo Journal of My Birding Experiences & Observations

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  Rufous/Allen's Hummers in Erie County!

Published: November 04, 2020
Tags: Rarities, rufous hummingbird, allen's hummingbird

It was both a shock and a thrill to hear that a Rufous/Allen's Hummingbird had been seen in Erie County!  That's a bird I had never seen here in my home county.  These western hummingbirds are quite rare and, if they DO show up, it's usually in October - and it's ususally to someone who isn't sure how rare they are!

The two hummingbirds, Rufous and Allen's, can be very difficult to differentiate in some ages and plumages.  One of our top regional birders, Jim Pawlicki, was consulted on the hummingbird that showed up in BOS member, Karen L's yard.  Jim moved to the west coast a few years ago but still kindly lends us his expertise when needed.  He was able to determine the hummer was an adult female, making the ID a little simpler than some other age and plumages.  The wider retrices in the bird's tail were a sure indication that it was, in fact, a solid Rufous Hummingbird.  It's always nice to know for sure!

While the ID was being worked out, Karen generously allowed a few of the BOS members to quietly view her wary guest, limiting the visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as for the sake and health of the hummer.  I was thrilled to be able to take birding friend, Shelley, over to Karen's for her to see and experience a new life bird!  In spite of some light rain, it was a fun visit to Karen's lovely yard and we were enthralled with the charming visitor who preferred drinking from the Cuphea and the Salvia plants rather than the hanging sugar water feeders.  We later found out that the bird, named Rosie, stayed until October 31st, leaving after a 14 day visit!

And just when you think you couldn't be any happier, a SECOND Rufous/Allen's showed up at another BOS member's house!  How crazy is that??!!  Prior to these two birds, one of these western hummers hadn't been seen in Erie County in close to 25 years!

Unfortunately, though, this was a young male and a clear photo of the spread tail was needed to be able to see if a small indentation was present on either of the two second-from-central tail feathers.  I did my best - three visits even - but I was never able to capture the needed photo.  Hummers beat their wings sooo incredibly fast - motion was a challenge.  Plus the little bugger didn't want to open his tail!  I tried top views and bottom views but no luck.  Sadly for Jim and Karen, we never were able to say for sure which species it was.  They were still pretty thrilled to be entertaining the little guy, though.  They took very good care of him by making sure the sugar water was kept from freezing, providing nice plants (which he didn't seem to care for), and keeping the visitors to a minimum.  The young male, named Randy (R for Rufous and A for Allen's), was last seen on Nov. 6th - another 14 day visit!  What are the odds???

Enjoy the photos of these two western beauties!

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This is the female Rufous Hummingbird that was able to be identified.

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Here's another view of the Rufous Hummingbird - she really loved Karen's flowers.

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Here's the young male we couldn't get an ID for

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The young male again - look at the color coming in on his gorget!

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Such a beautiful bird!

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And just a back shot of the young male showing how much green is still present - not helpful for an ID at all!

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