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December 2, 2021

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Friday, November 5, 2021

Return of Bird of the Week: Rufous Hummingbird

WC has access to his bird database again, so we’ll return to Hummingbirds for a bit longer to pickup some of the North American species; to this point, all but one of the 20 or so hummingbirds WC has shown have been endemic to Central and South America.[^1] We’ll start these last few with the Rufous Hummingbird. Alaska’s sole breeding hummingbird species.

Rufous Hummingbird, Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho

Rufous Hummingbird, Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho

The Rufous Hummingbird has the longest migration of anybird species, at least if you measure the length of migration in the length of the bird doing the migrating. WC has photographed this species in Resurrection Bay, west of Prince William Sound, in southcentral Alaska. It winters in southern Mexico. This is a small hummingbird, just 9.5 centimeters, about 3.75 inches long. That is an extremely impressive migration. When you consider that a Rufous Hummingbird brain is just 0.199 grams or 5.9% of its body mass the ability to learn migratory routes and return to the same nest site and territory across years is even more impressive.

Rufous Hummingbird, Malheur NWR, Oregon

Female Rufous Hummingbird, Malheur NWR, Oregon

This species tolerates captivity fairly well, and as a result was the primary research species in understanding the flight mechanics of hummingbirds. Yet for all that, there are surprising gaps in knowledge of this species.

Male Rufous Hummingbird, Seward, Alaska

Male Rufous Hummingbird, Seward, Alaska

One last note: this was the first hummingbird species WC remembers seeing. One landed on a cable on the RV Acona near Esther Island in Prince William Sound. WC’s fellow deck technician, David White, was a birder, and as stunned to the point of stammering at the sight. WC, not a birder at the time, was simply charmed by the tiny bird perched on the wire. Amazing.

For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

 

[^1]: The exception was the Broad-billed Hummingbird.

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