On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
It’s Albatrossity Monday! No surprise there.
Then we go to the farmers’s market on Tuesday before heading back to New Zealand!
I hope everyone has a good week!
The second batch of photos from my trip to Arizona in August does have a few birds that are not hummingbirds, but is mostly hummers. As my friend Sheri Williamson notes, hummingbirds are the “gateway drug to birding”; this week and next you just might get hooked. I also need to thank Sheri for her help with IDing some of these jewels. I have a lot to learn about hummingbirds and she has the knowledge of a deity and the patience of a saint.
Up first is a good morning look from a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus). The B&B where I stayed had a pair of these apex predators roosting in the cottonwoods just north of the building. This one may have partied a bit too hearty, from the looks of him. Click here for larger image.
The B&B property also had a healthy population of Gila Woodpeckers (Melanerpes uropygialis), who are also big fans of the sugar water in hummingbird feeders. They resemble (both in appearance and vocalizations) the Red-bellied Woodpeckers that we have at our feeders here in Flyover Country. This is a recently fledged youngster based on the color of the head; an adult male would have a red circle on his crown, and an adult female would have a brown head. Click here for larger image.
One of the special birds in this part of Arizona is the Gray Hawk (Buteo plagiatus). According to the field guides, this is a bird found in “mature trees along permanent streams”. I figure that this one did not read the field guides; it was perched in a scrubby tree a few miles away from any stream, permanent or otherwise. Like other buteos, the young birds retain a immature plumage until the summer of their second year, when they molt into adult plumage. This is a second-year bird that has almost, but not quite, finished that molt. Click here for larger image.
Okay, now for some hummers. Last week’s OTR featured a adult male Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris) feeding on a pink yucca flower. We’ll start off this batch with another adult male Broad-billed (shortened to just “Bill” in the hummingbird aficionado community in Arizona), feeding on another flower, which I believe is Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Click here for larger image.
Here is an adult female Broad-billed Hummingbird (Billie?). The range map for this species just barely edges into SE AZ and SW NM, but it can wander a bit at times. One showed up in my patch of Flyover Country in November a couple of years back. Click here for larger image.
This was one of the more abundant species I saw; it is an adult male Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri). As you can see, in the right light that black chin is really a deep iridescent violet. This is the western US counterpart to the Ruby-throated hummingbird familiar to eastern US birders, and like that species, seems to generally be adaptable to urban and suburban environments. Click here for larger image.
The final four images in this set are all different ages and sexes of the same species, Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). This is an adult male. Generally these are an aggressive and persistent defender of feeders that they claim as their own private domain, but they were much more accommodating in the presence of the clouds of hummingbirds at many of the feeders I saw in SE AZ in August.
It was long suspected that this species hybridizes with Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin), and that turns out to be more extensive than previously imagined, based on studies in the range overlap zone near the CA/OR border, and on examination of birds in AZ and elsewhere when they are captured and banded. It is very difficult to ID these hybrid birds in the wild, and hybridization is common enough that lots of them can only be counted as Rufous/Allen’s. It is possible that these two species might someday be lumped, to the chagrin of birders who would have their life lists decrease by one! Click here for larger image.
Adult female Rufous Hummingbird. Click here for larger image.
Juvenile (hatched in 2023) female Rufous Hummingbird. Click here for larger image.
Juvenile (hatched in 2023) male. The green on the back is seen in all juvenile Rufous or Allen’s Hummingbirds; adult male Allen’s Hummingbirds (and hybrids) will still have significant green on the back. Based on this picture alone, it is not possible to say if this is Rufous, Allen’s, or a hybrid. So just enjoy it, as it is the last dose of the gateway drug this week. Click here for larger image.