#ABArare - Plain-capped Starthroat - Arizona
by Nate Swick
On May 27 while leading a tour group to Montosa Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains, Santa Cruz, Arizona, Dave Stejskal discovered an ABA Code 4 Plain-capped Starthroat near the Smithsonian Visitors' Center.
From Tucson, take I-19 south to the Canoa exit (5.5 miles south of Green Valley). Exit and go under the Interstate to the frontage road on the east side. Turn right (south) and drive for 3 miles to Elephant Head Road. Turn east (left). Follow this road for a couple miles until you reach the junction with Mt Hopkins Road and turn south again (right). Stay on this road for almost 7 miles until you pass the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (Visitors' Center) on the right.
Continue on this now dirt road onto a rather narrow canyon until you get to a broad concrete ford of a dry streambed. The pavement re-starts just past this ford No more than about 50 yards past this stream crossing is a dirt road to the right that heads uphill above the pavement. The starthroat was initially seen about 100 yards up this road where there's a wide spot on the left and there's also a big gray electrical box of some sort. The bird was between the box and the stream bed. It was seen again another 50 yards up this same dirt road where there's a clear overlook of the dry stream bed below.
UPDATE via B.J. Stacey: The bird seems to have moved to a little bit more reliable spot. Once you get to the road mentioned above continue on the main road about 30 more yards to a second road. Park there. On the left-hand side of the road there is a gulley and the bird seemed to spend most of its time in and around that gulley (and in the dead tree on the road). It was found again later in the day by a friend of mine in the exact same spot.
The bird has been refound in the general area both on the 27th and the 28th.
Plain-capped Starthroat is one of four members of the Heliomaster genus and the only one to make it into the ABA Area. It is resident from the Pacific Slope of northwest Mexico to northwest Costa Rica. In much of its range, Plain-capped Starthroat is frequently insectivorous, often hawking insects with swift-like flights including glides (Hummingbirds of North American, Williamson). In Arizona, starthroats often visit sugar water feeders and visit the blossoms of flowering plants, especially feeding on flowering agaves after post-breeding dispersals. On their breeding grounds they take nectar from a variety of trees, large cacti, and shrubs where they are often seen using high perches (Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 5).