Summer is the time to find hummingbirds in Madera Canyon. Fifteen species have been seen here.  


This edition of Friends of Madera Canyon news is about those hummingbirds and Hummingbird Monitoring Network special events this Saturday and next Tuesday.  

The most abundant is Black-chinned Hummingbird whose nearest relative, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (the only regular nesting species in the eastern United States) has never been found in Madera Canyon. There are only a few records for Arizona. Black-chinned Hummingbirds nest throughout the western United States up to southern Canada, and all (except a very few) migrate south in fall to winter in central Mexico.


This Black-chinned Hummingbird shows a bit of it's
iridescent purple below the black chin.
George Cottay photo.

Broad-billed Hummingbirds are the next most abundant in Madera Canyon. These are the ones with the red bill and blue gorget that are always found at feeders. They also arrive in early spring and almost all of them depart in fall for Mexico. They do not nest much farther north than southern Arizona.


This adult male Broad-billed Hummingbird was found molting his primary wing feathers - an annual event that waits until after the breeding season is finished.
George West photo 


Anna's Hummingbird is a chunky bird, heavier than either of the last two, and is known to all who keep feeders up in winter in southern Arizona and California. It is the third most common species in Madera Canyon but most are not seen there until fall when there is an eastward migration of birds that have nested in California and farther north. This species has been found as far north as southcentral Alaska. Many individuals spend the winter here and others move east and south into Mexico.



The light angle on this perched Anna's Hummingbird shows both bright iridescence and feathers in the shadow looking dark. Tom Vezo photo

The fourth most common is the Magnificent Hummingbird that is almost twice the size and weight of the other hummingbirds in the canyon except the rarer Blue-throated Hummingbird. While most of this species retires to Mexico in winter, a few remain in the sky islands including Madera Canyon.


This adult male Magnificent Hummingbird is perched showing off his violet crown and green gorget. The whole bird looks almost black like the breast of this bird when the light does not hit the iridescent feathers just right. George West photo


Next is the Rufous Hummingbird. This is the feisty species that dominates feeders in fall, driving all other visitors away, until the dominant male is overwhelmed with numbers of other hummingbirds. Males are rusty-red-brown with a bright orange-red gorget. This species nests in the mountains of northwestern United States as far north as southcentral Alaska. They seem to migrate north to the west of us and come south to the east of us along the Rocky Mountains to the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. An increasing number of Rufous Hummingbirds have turned east once they reach the Mexico border and fly along the Gulf Coast and then north up the Atlantic Coast as far as Delaware. The majority winters in central Mexico.



This is an adult male Rufous Hummingbird who has migrated south to Arizona already in mid July. They remain there from November to February, long enough to molt and get fat, then start north again in March.
George Cottay photo  

The next most abundant species is Broad-tailed Hummingbird that nests in the coniferous forest from Arizona north into southern Canada. A few nest in the Santa Rita Mountains and come to feeders in Madera Canyon.



This adult male Broad-tailed Hummingbird is waiting his turn at the feeder in late August when he has to compete with the more aggressive Rufous Hummingbirds.
George West photo.


The other species are much less common. In order of decreasing abundance, these are Allen's Hummingbird (nests in California and wanders east in fall), Blue-throated Hummingbird (resident in small numbers in Madera Canyon), Calliope Hummingbird (our smallest hummingbird that nests in the Rocky Mountains and migrates through Madera Canyon), Violet-crowned Hummingbird (a Mexican species that nests in small numbers in southern Arizona), White-eared Hummingbird (another species very common in Mexico that wanders north in summer), Berylline Hummingbird (a spectacular Mexican species that wanders north in summer), Lucifer Hummingbird (a dry desert species that is uncommon in Arizona and wanders uphill in summer), Costa's Hummingbird (another dry desert species more common in California and common in winter in Green Valley, but rarely comes uphill to Madera Canyon), and Plain-capped Starthroat (another Mexican species that is very rare but is seen every few years here and sometimes in Madera Canyon).



The Hummingbird Monitoring Network banded this adult male Calliope Hummingbird on his way north in April. His gorget is much different from that of other hummingbirds as the individual feathers are narrow and do not overlap from side to side on the throat. He can expand his gorget to attract females and ward off rival males. This bird, however, is patiently waiting for a drink and to be released. George West photo 
The Hummingbird Monitoring Network captured and banded this adult male Berylline Hummingbird at the Chuparosa Inn in Madera Canyon at the end of June. This species is common in Mexico and a few wander north into Arizona at the end of the breeding season. Note the amazing iridescent colors on the wings and tail. George West photo 

Allen's and Rufous hummingbirds are closely related. How do you tell them apart? One way banders use to tell the adult males of Allen's and Rufous Hummingbirds apart for sure is to check tail feathers numbers 2 and 5. Note that Allen's rectrix 2 (left photo) lacks a notch while Rufous's rectrix 2 (right photo) has a definite notch on one side. Allen's rectrix 5 is about one millimeter wide while Rufous's is wider (you need a caliper to be sure!). George West photos 





The other species that have been documented in Arizona are Ruby-throated Hummingbird mentioned above, and Cinnamon and Bumblebee Hummingbirds that have been seen only once in Arizona some 100 years ago.


You can help keep hummingbirds a part of your life by supporting the Hummingbird Monitoring Network. If you feed hummingbirds use the simple formula of one part of granulated sugar mixed with four parts of tap water. More sugar is not better and too much can be harmful. 


Hummingbirds this Saturday, May 25th, in Tucson

You are invited to a special Hummingbird Monitoring Network event on Saturday, May 25th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at Harlow Gardens, 5620 East Pima Street in Tucson. The HMN will present a program about hummingbirds and their hummingbird research project at 11:00 am. You can help hummingbirds by planting a pollinator garden and be rewarded by their charming presence all season long. The staff at Harlow Gardens will be on hand to help you choose from a dazzling array of nectar plants and landscape features to design your garden. There will be a raffle to benefit the Hummingbird Monitoring Network and giveaways for all who attend.


Harlow Gardens is a family-owned nursery that specializes in landscape design and making beautiful, usable places.  


HMN is a science-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of hummingbird diversity and abundance throughout the Americas. Much more information is available at the monitoring network site and the local banding pages. 




Hummingbirds Next Tuesday, May 28th, in Patagonia


Cady Hall is in the Patagonia Library
346 Duquesne, Patagonia, AZ 85624 


How does something like the HMN begin? We posed that question to one of the network founders, our own George West.


"The HMN was founded in 2002 by Susan Wethington, Barbara Carlson, and George West. All of us were banding hummingbirds and saw the need to coordinate our efforts. We got together and formed the non-profit HMN, established protocols for banding procedures and data collection, encouraged and persuaded other banders in the western U.S. to use the same protocols so data could be statistically compared, and went to work. Over the past 11 years, the number of banding stations has increased to over 30 from southern Canada to Mexico. HMN is a volunteer organization with hundreds of cooperators devoting their time and effort to determine the habitats that each species of hummingbird requires so they can be protected. Scientists have worked with the HMN to gather data on many research projects in order to learn more about these remarkable birds."