Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Allen's Hummingbirds are Back

I decided to spend a little "me time" on the back porch with the hummers this morning.  I was pleased to see that the Allen's Hummingbirds are back in full force!  While I love the Anna's, it's quite a treat to see the Allen's at the feeder.  They moved in about three years ago and have apparently decided to stay!

 The Allen's Hummingbirds were typically found out in the chapparal.  However, during the dry summers of the last three years, they have increasingly relied on residential feeders and floral plantings for food.  They are a little smaller than the Anna's but make up for size by being really feisty!

 Female Anna's Hummingbird taking flight.

 Female Allen's Hummingbird.

 Female Allen's Hummingbird.

 Female Anna's Hummingbird with a beak full of pollen.  Hummingbirds are significant pollinators.  In fact, some plants, such as the Heliconia, have long, tubular flowers specialized for being pollinated only by Hummingbirds!  Notably, my Heliconia, here in San Diego where we have lots of Hummingbirds, are almost 100% pollinated while, in Hawaii, where there are no Hummingbirds, are almost never pollinated.  As you would suspect, there are lots of Hummingbirds in South and Central America, where Heliconia are native.  In fact, Columbia is the most likely origin of hummingbirds from where they continued to speciate and spread throughout both North and South America.

Male Anna's Hummingbird, showing the bright red gorget for which they are famous!  When chasing other hummingbirds, they flare the gorget like a lion's mane, making look particularly large and fierce.  Only the males have the large, brilliant gorget.  Both females and juveniles lack the large gorget, possibly making them less threatening to the males, allowing them to co-exist in the same territory.

On a side note, you might ask whether these are really Allen's Hummingbirds or whether they might be Rufous Hummingbirds or both.  The difference between the two rests on some small differences in the tail feathers which are not apparent when the tails are not spread.  Thus, it's pretty hard to tell, to say the least.  However, given that these pictures are all taken in San Diego during February, it's far more likely to fit into an expanding Allen's Hummingbird range that into the Rufous Winter range.  Of course, I'm keeping an eye out for pictures with the tail open but, if you've ever tried to take pictures of hummingbirds in flight, you'll know that it's a lot harder than when they're perched so...we'll go with the assumption that these little guys are Allen's, based on range, for now at least.

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