Handy Hummer ID Tips

Okay, you've heard from the experts that it's impossible to separate Selasphorus hummingbirds in the field. Yet, these same guys are sending you out to confirm the breeding status of Allen's and Rufous Hummingbird (technically, Allen's has never been confirmed to breed in Oregon beyond displaying males and Rufous has never been confirmed in the southern part of its range). What's a poor field observer to do?

Here are some reliable characters that can be used with high reliability in the field:

Displays | Plumage | Gestalt | Other Tips

Displays (click on each image for larger display)

Allen's Hummingbird is believed to breed on the Oregon Coast in Curry County and possibly Southern Coos County. Definitive evidence of breeding by this species would be observation of the courtship display on multiple days in the same approximate area. The display begins with a series of shallow pendulum arcs followed by a single rise to perhaps 30m and a steep dive.

Throughout most of Cascadia, the expected Selasphorus species is Rufous Hummingbird. Its display is described in the Golden Guide and in later Peterson's Western Guides as elliptical. This is not a particularly good description. Most displays start with an upward rise to about 30m followed by a rapid downward drop with the bird pulling out near the ground while making a "zubbing" sound.  The bird returns following the general path of the dive and repeats the procedure.
Calliope Hummingbird is a species most regularly found in open, high mountain areas. It has a display which is similar to the front end of the Allen's display. Generally, pendulum arcs are broader and there is no final dive. Calliopes are also, usually silent.
Anna's Hummingbird is a recent addition to the avifauna of the Pacific Northwest first recorded in the late 1940's in Oregon. It is the only species which regularly overwinters and is a very early breeder (Nov-Dec in California). Nests with eggs have been found in Oregon as early as February. The diving display is like the Rufous (or the end of the Allen's). It lacks the loud "zubbing" sound that characterizes the arc of the Rufous, but often ends its display with a "pop" sound. The Anna's display is also typically more 2 dimensional than the Rufous.

Plumage Characters


Other tips
Displays | Plumage | Gestalt | Other Tips

This page created on March 11, 1997