Birds of the Western Slope August 19, 2015

By Evelyn Horn


Birds of the Western Slope August 19, 2015 | Evelyn Horn,

Photo from Dollar Photo Rufous hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

And here he is! I've been keeping a close eye on our trumpet vine waiting to see our rufous hummingbird. Our usual hummers are the black-chin with the broad-tailed and the tiny calliope (the smallest of the small at 2 1/2 inches long) at higher elevations as on the Grand Mesa. We only see the rufous during their fall migration.

The migration path of most birds is over the same area both going north and returning south. Rufous are wide-ranging birds, breeding farther north than any others. In the spring they migrate northward along our western coast to the northwest and Alaska for summer. But the southward trip is down the Rocky Mountains. I've long wondered about that. How do they know where to go?

And they fly alone rather than in flocks. Of course, they have to stop along the way to feed and if they were in a flock there probably wouldn't be enough food for them. Secondly, they're so small that they don't make a wake in the air currents for others to follow. Their small size makes it difficult for predators to even notice them. They fly low, often at tree-top level, possibly to watch for food sources.

Before migration, these tiny birds must gain 25 to 40 percent of their body weight. If a larger bird gained that much weight, it couldn't even take off!

And names. Our bird is Selasphorus rufus. The term "rufus" means reddish so that the common name fits our little bird. The Greek selas means a bright flame and phoros means "carrying."

On the Internet, I found the website www.BirdWatchingDaily.com and I quote "... It was originally thought that all rufous hummingbirds wintered primarily in northern Mexico and Central America, but since the late 1970s, an increasing number of birds have been documented in winter in the southeastern United States. In the past, the migrants were often incorrectly diagnosed as lost or ill, but researchers now agree that a winter population has been established..."

Now my rufous zips away over the vine -- but I'm sure he'll be back soon!