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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?

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Ted Floyd

Ted Floyd

Editor, Birding magazine at American Birding Association
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.

        • 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.

  • 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 …

    • 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
  • Pingback: Birding Online: March 2014 « ABA Publications()

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