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
||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
and in later Peterson's Western Guides as elliptical. This is not
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.|
1. All red-backed male Selasphorus hummingbirds may be assumed to be Rufous Hummingbirds. Any green-backed Selasphorus hummingbird north or east of its expected range needs to be closely scrutized and, where possible, captured for close examination.
2. Male Rufous Hummingbirds have a distinct notch in tail feather #2 (the two center most feathers are #1, the next two are #2 and so on to the outer most #5).
Allen's Hummingbirds are generally described as "seeming smaller." They "have a shorter looking tail." Allen's seem "less aggressive," and "quieter." All of these descriptions may, in fact, be true, but the degree to which they are useful depends to a large extent upon what you want to believe. If you are pre-disposed to believe you have an Allen's Hummingbird, it's not all that hard to convince yourself that it has unusual characters.
This page created on March 11, 1997