Western Hummer Season

Mystery Hummingbird #1 (photo by Steve Valasek)

Last week Scott Weidensaul reminded Pennsylvania birders that with hummingbird migration underway we might — just might — see a rarity at our feeders.

He wrote, “PABIRDers will recall that last fall and winter we documented an astounding 94 western hummingbirds of four species in Pennsylvania, and that was probably the tip of the iceberg.”

In honor of Western Hummer Season I’ve made a quiz with a twist. These recent hummingbird photos were all taken outside of Pennsylvania by former Pittsburghers.  Some of these birds can be found in Pennsylvania, one cannot, and one of Pennsylvania’s rarities isn’t pictured here at all.

Can you identify these hummingbirds?  (starting with Mystery #1 above)

Experts will know what they are.  The rest of us can appreciate the beautiful photos.  Don’t feel bad if you can’t identify them — I couldn’t without looking them up.   Answers are in the first Comment.

Mystery Hummingbird #2:
Mystery Hummingbird #2 (photo by Steve Valasek)


Mystery Hummingbird #3:
Mystery Hummingbird #3 (photo by Steve Vlasek)


Mystery Hummingbird #4:
Mystery Hummingbird #4 (photo by Steve Valasek)


Mystery Hummingbird #5:
Mystery Hummingbird #5 (photo by Chuck Tague)


Keep your hummingbird feeders full and watch for unusual birds this fall.  The hint may be just a slight color difference.

After October 15, any hummer you see in Pennsylvania is a western rarity to report on PABIRDS or to Bob Mulvihill at the National Aviary (412.323.7235).


(all photos by Steve Valasek, except for the photo with a flower which is by Chuck Tague)

p.s.  See Rob Protz’ comment for the western hummer species I forgot to mention…

8 thoughts on “Western Hummer Season

  1. Answers to the Western Hummer Quiz:

    #1 Black-chinned hummingbird. Found in PA, winter 2012-13.

    #2 Calliope hummingbird. Found in PA, winter 2012-13.

    #3 Rufous hummingbird. Found in PA, winter 2012-13, the most likely rarity in PA. This individual is more rufous-looking that we usually see in PA.

    #4 Broad-tailed hummingbird. NOT seen in PA. This bird and the three above were photographed in New Mexico by Steve Valasek.

    #5 Ruby-throated hummingbird. The only hummingbird in PA in spring and summer. Is gone by October 15. Photographed in Florida by Chuck Tague.

    The missing PA rarity not pictured here: Allen’s hummingbird.

  2. All of these photos are from an Audubon society trip to 2 houses in the mountains east of Albuquerque. There were lots of feeders and hundreds of hummingbirds flying around. It was amazing. Most of the birds were black-chins and broad-tails with the Calliope being the rarest, I may have photographed the only one at the first house. But we had someone visiting from Buffalo New York and he thought that the Broad-Tails were Ruby-Throated. One of the differences is the chatter that the Broad-tails make when they are flying around. I don’t recall Ruby-throats being too noisy in that regard.

  3. A bit of topic..but I have one nest of Ruby Throat that had hatched last week…Hopefully this week I can get some pics of the wee beaks that are just starting to grow long…Nest is too high up to see in… the only pics so far, show one little head and a wee short beak.. when mama is feeding them…

  4. Well, we’ve had Anna’s also in PA, more than one now. But the biggest surprise of all was the Bahama Woodstar in Lancaster Co this April. But I’m pretty convinced that bird was around since last summer, since there was a sighting of a bird in Levittown
    (Bucks Co) whose description sounded like Broad-tailed initially last August.

    Anyone who thinks they have a hummer that is NOT a Ruby-throat should call one of the banders in PA. Here in Pittsburgh you should call Bob Mulvihill at the National Aviary. And the best thing to look for is rufous/orange/brown on the tail of the bird (which may not be visible unless you see the rectices spread out). And if you see one that’s “cinnamon-brown” (as a good friend of mine one described one), you are looking at an adult male Rufous!

    One more point, don’t take your feeders down on Labor Day, that’s a myth! Keep them up because most of the Rufous and other rare hummers show up in October and November here in PA. There’s already a large number of sightings in Louisiana and even 5 in Arkansas already this month!

    1. Thanks for the update, Rob. I’d forgotten about the Bahama Woodstar (from the tropical southeast) and mentioned “4 western hummers” based on last year’s reports. Wouldn’t you know I’d forgotten the Anna’s!

  5. Hi Kate.

    Just had a hummingbird on the bog sage. Looked like a Ruby-Throated, but I got some (not so good) photos through the window screen.


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