aba events

    March/April 2014 Featured Photo

    The March/April 2014 Birding has gone to press, and ABA members will soon be receiving–along with a lot of other content–Tom Johnson’s analysis of a most interesting hummingbird found a while back in Delaware. Here’s the hummingbird:


    Photo by (c) Tom Johnson.


    And now the obvious question: What is it?

    You can find the answer–sort of–by googling it. But you can also go off on a wild goose chase by googling it. So let’s do something that Tom in his article exhorts us to do. Let’s wipe the slate clean, and approach this interesting hummingbird with fresh new eyes.

    A key first step in bird identification is knowing where you are and what the date is. We know that this bird is from Delaware. And the date of the photo is early April. So, right off the bat, we’re dealing with something notable.

    Your turn! What IS this bird?

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Ted Floyd

    Ted Floyd

    Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives of the ABA. He is the author of more than 100 magazine and journal articles, and has written four recent books, including an ABA title, the ABA Guide to Birds of Colorado. Floyd is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and state ornithological society meetings, and he has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Mainly, he listens to birds at night.
    Ted Floyd

    Latest posts by Ted Floyd (see all)

    • Christi

      What a beautiful little bird! I would love to host it at my feeder. Is it an Anna’s Hummingbird?

    • Mad Monk


    • Andy Kratter

      It shows two characters not found together on any North American hummingbird; an iridescent forecrown (like Anna’s), and rufous in the tail (like Selaphorus sp.). Therefore, a hybrid, which are relatively common in hummingbirds. Seems like Anna’s is one parent, the other maybe Calliope? Tail looks short, gorget looks somewhat streaked with white, flanks look very plain.

    • Mike Patterson

      I note that this bird is sporting a band on its right leg. That suggests that there are probably more diagnostic photos floating around. Given that this bird has field marks that suggest mixed parentage, we would be best served with a suite of in-hand photos.

      • Ted Floyd

        The print version of the March/April 2014 Birding features a full-on suite of photos.

        By the way, this isn’t the first time Birding magazine has offered a suite of photos of Anna’s-x-?? hybrids. If you think this Delaware hummer with Anna’s genes is a bit odd, get a load of the Anna’s-x-?? in the September 2012 Birding. Here’s video of this fantastic bird:

        The bird part starts at 0:00:16.


        • Ted Floyd

          Red (Anna’s) + Blue/Green (Mag) = Yellow. Go figure.

          • http://www.fieldguidetohummingbirds.com/ Sheri L. Williamson

            Perfectly logical, since yellow falls between red and blue-green on the spectrum. A weirder bit of genetic alchemy was the turquoise blue gorget of the male Magnificent x Berylline that spent several summers in Miller Canyon, AZ. This video also shows an effect observable in many more common hummingbirds: a shift across the spectrum (red-orange to green, in this case) with changes in orientation of the feathers’ surfaces to the viewer’s eye.

        • Ted Floyd

          Here’s more video of the Anna’x x Magnificent hybrid, with Birding magazine and the ABA in the credits (at the end, of course):

    • Dave Irons

      The back story on this bird involves some intrigue and strong differences of opinion. I look forward to Tom’s discussion of this interesting individual, which most now believe is an Anna’s Hummingbird X Calliope Hummingbird.

      • http://www.fieldguidetohummingbirds.com/ Sheri L. Williamson


        • Ted Floyd

          Perish the thought!

    • Michael Retter

      I can only think of one U.S. speices with red on the forehead (for an adult male) And another with white in the gorget (for an adult male). Whether it’s correct, is another matter, but Anna’s X Calliope is the obvious hypothesis to me.

    • Sharon Johnston

      We have a pair of Anna’s year round here on Gabriola Island and this does look like the male, although from the pic it’s hard to see the white ring and slight curve of bill. But in Delaware?? He’d have to be pretty lost! Could it be a Ruby-throated?

    • Pingback: March/April 2014 Featured Photo « ABA Blog()

    • Mary

      Hmmm, I first looked at it and thought it looked like an Anna’s. Then I noticed how long the wings extended past the tail, so I thought Caliope. Now I see there’s discussion of it possibly being a hybrid of those two. Ok, I totally can see that, and that’s probably what it will end up being.
      But what is the possibility of it just being an Anna’s in heavy molt. Maybe it lost its tail feathers along the way. That can happen. Is the white in the throat really definitive of a Caliope? I don’t know. I’ll have to go look that up …

      • http://www.fieldguidetohummingbirds.com/ Sheri L. Williamson

        One very helpful clue is the size of the bird in relation to nearby objects of known size. In this photo, the feeder, a Hummzinger Mini designed for smallish hummingbirds such as Ruby-throateds, provides a convenient “yardstick.”

      • David Rankin

        If you look closely, you’ll see some rufous in one of the inner tail feathers, which Anna’s should never show.

    • Michael Retter
    Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
    If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
    Read More »

    Recent Comments




    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    • 2015 ABA Bird of the Year: Green Heron March 5, 2015 4:36
      It is that time of year for one more time. The time when the year list resets to zero, Big Years start and end, and the ABA announces its new bird of the year. This year, the powers that be have decided that the 2015 bird of the year shall be…wait for it…Green Heron! This bird […]
    • Cape May Youth Autumn Birding Day 2014 February 5, 2015 7:05
      The Cape May Autumn Birding Festival is a weekend long event that is in its 68th year now, making it the longest-running birding festival in North America. […]
    • Young Birder Blog Birding #36 December 30, 2014 6:50
      As the year winds down, many of us are enjoying or preparing for Christmas Bird Counts! […]

    Follow ABA on Twitter