Birds of the Western Slope Aug. 9, 2017

By Evelyn Horn


War

Well, the time has arrived. And hummingbird warfare has begun. The black-chinned was here but now he's gone and the rufous has come back ... again. I think that my rufous is an immature bird, his markings are less distinct, but a bird is a bird!

The black-chinned shows the purple band at the bird's throat. I have only seen it a few times when the light is just right and I'm in the right position. The rufous on the right looks like a mature bird and he's in the right position for this column. A couple of days ago, Jim Wallace alerted me that he had rufous and black-chinned both. So I should watch.

And, here I am, standing on our back porch, waiting for the rain to return, (it has looked threatening all day, but very little rain!). I can see our black-chinned feeding on the trumpet vine's flowers. The flowers look much better than they did last week for our Bullock's oriole has apparently gone.

A few days ago, I found a carcass near the mail box in front of our house. The cleanup crew had already been busy and I couldn't tell except that the bird was either a female or a young one (no dramatic markings like the adult male). I recall reading that the young ones suffer a 75 percent attrition rate. Only about 25 percent grow to maturity. I nearly cried.

Whoosh. And here is the rufous! He's above the black-chinned. Black-chinned flies downward and away to his left ... out of sight. Rufous seems to be jumping up and down! But here comes black-chinned from a lower branch and rufous turns around in mid-air. Neat trick! And away he goes after blackchin. And I wonder if this will ever stop. Yes, when the sun goes down the war will end -- for our birds are diurnal.

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According to the Cornell Lab of Ornitholgy, rufous hummingbirds winter in Mexico, can be found in California in the spring, summer in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska and spend time in the late summer and fall in the Rocky Mountains on their return circuit.

The black-chinned hummingbird nest in the Rocky Mountains and winter further south along the Pacific coast of southern Mexico.