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Selasphorus surprise

After just mentioning on this blog that it is time to put up hummingbird feeders, I had a delightful surprise in my backyard today (27 July) when a Selasphorus hummingbird made an appearance.  After seeing the bird several times, I thought the evidence indicated the female bird was a Broad-tailed Hummingbird based on size, apparently large tail, and rufous coloration appearing to be restricted to the outer rectrices.  This species breeds in the Rocky Mountains and is one that I never seen in eastern Nebraska.  However, after sending the photos out for review the bird’s identification proved to be a little bit controversial, with some individuals thinking Broad-tailed while others thought it was a Rufous Hummingbird.  Below are several photos of the bird and at the bottom of the post is additional information about the bird’s identification.













One hummingbird expert provided the following remarks:

I am reasonably certain that the bird is a Rufous [RUHU] rather than a Broad-tailed [BTLH].  There is just too much rusty coloring in the plumage, including the rectrices.  Additionally, the back is the bronzy green of a RUHU rather than an emerald green of a BTLH.  I suspect that it is an adult female that lacks the distinctive throat patch.

Rufous Hummingbirds breed in northwestern North America and are regular fall migrants in far western Nebraska.  However, they are increasingly observed in eastern North America during migration and winter.  In fact, Rufous Hummingbirds now regularly winter in numbers in the southeastern United States.  I have had a Rufous Humminbird in my yard(s) three of the last five years here in Lincoln, which is quite remarkable, and its increasing frequency of occurrence in eastern Nebraska is attributable to the species broader changes in distribution.  I don’t mind seeing more Rufous Hummingbirds in my backyard!

The debate about this bird’s identification has not been settled, though.  The debate rages and opinions about this bird’s identification are still welcome!

Good birding!

Nongame Bird Program

Thanks to Nancy Newfield, Kathy DeLara, Ross Silcock, Mark Brogie, E.J. Raynor, Michael Willison and Melissa Panella for sharing opinions about this bird’s identification.   

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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