Monday, November 23, 2009

Mystery Hummingbird in the Yard

This hummingbird has been visiting the feeders in my Tucson yard for at least the past three weeks. Its voice does not sound like any of the normally occurring species – being too soft for Anna's, too high and percussive for Black-chinned, and not at all like the tinkling of Costa's. I've made sonograms (using Raven Lite) of several species to compare, and I'm still puzzled (see below).

Note: you can click on any image in this blog to see a larger image.

Visually, it looks most like a long-billed Costa's, but there are features that make me think Black-chinned. It actively pumps its tail while hovering, much like Black-chinned. The answer may lie in the shape of the primaries and tail feathers, and that may require trapping the bird.
A shot that shows the primary shapes a little better.

An Anna's Hummingbird for comparison

A Costa's Hummingbird for comparison

Vocally, this bird is most reminiscent of Archilochus, especially in rhythm. I've posted a clip to the mysteries page at Xeno-Canto.
And here are sonograms that compare all the similar species.

Mystery hummer
Anna's Hummingbird
Costa's Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird


  1. Rich, I think your sound files provide evidence that the bird might be Black-chinned x Costa's. I've discussed why I think so on my blog. I recommend getting someone to capture the bird, and I recommend getting more sound recordings if you're able!

  2. Hi Rich:

    Maybe you have a female Ruby-throated again? The photos are suggestive that it has a pretty green crown and the profile of the sonogram looks similar, although the call maybe slightly lower in pitch (or higher, whichever corresponds to lower magnitude in KHz). Perhaps the sonogram is a male call and the female's call is similar but on a slightly different pitch?

  3. I actually considered that, Philip. But the bill is too long and the voice not quite right. It's missing a prominent lower frequency found in RTHU and BCHU that starts around 3000 Hz.

  4. Very interesting. Would be pretty cool to document a hybrid. You might have to start putting up more feeders and charging $5 per visit if your unusual hummingbird visitors keep coming.