Tuesday, September 17, 2013

More small hummingbirds

Bumblebee Hummingbird
Very similar to the Wine-throated Hummingbird of the previous entry is Bumblebee Hummingbird, which replaces it north of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. I myself went north of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec last week, on a business trip quite similar to the one I undertook in March of this year. This time I visited the Veracruz River of Raptors project, a project I worked for in 2008, 2009 and 2011. I got one day of birding in the pine-oak forests of La Joya in, just west of Xalapa. Bumblebee Hummingbird is locally common there.

Unlike the male Wine-throated Hummingbird, which perches conspicuously and vocalizes constantly, flashing his brilliant gorget in all directions, the male Bumblebee Hummingbird is more low-key, and apparently perches inside the vegetation, where it was difficult to find. Every once in a while, a conspecific would fly by and mouse-like squeaks emanated from the vegetation, while the producer of those squeaks remained invisible. They were more easily seen when feeding, moving slowly but constantly like a bumblebee from flower to flower.

Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird
A similar feeding style is seen in Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird. This morning I photographed this female as it fed quietly in a flowerbed on the top of Cerro de Hula (Honduras).

Monday, September 2, 2013

Wine-throated Hummingbird

Many migratory birds that breed in the United States and Canada have finished breeding and have started to show up in Honduras recently. Many residents have also finished their breeding season, and juveniles of those species which retain a juvenal plumage for a while (like Rusty Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird and Bushy-crested Jay, to name a few) now seem to be everywhere.

For one group of residents – the nectarivores – the breeding season is just starting here in Honduras. Both hummingbirds and flowerpiercers are easily found these days, because many of them are quite vocal and active. Some species, like the Wine-throated Hummingbird pictured above, spend much of their time displaying at leks, and produce an endless series of chips when perched on a favorite branch, or a surprisingly musical song when hovering in front of a female. 

While chirping from an exposed perch, the male often puffs up his extravagant gorget, which glitters bright magenta from some angles, but shows a duller green or a dark wine-red from other angles.  

Posturing also forms part of the display of this species. Every once in a while, whenever a conspecific flew past (my feeling was males mostly, but I'm not 100% sure), the displaying perched male would spread his tail and raise his wings, but remain perched, apparently to impress another male, or perhaps to impress the watching female.

We observed these Wine-throated Hummingbirds in La Tigra National Park, near Tegucigalpa, last Saturday. While hummingbirds and flowerpiercers can be hard to find at times, their songs are now frequently heard, and watching their displays is fascinating. We also observed several male Green-breasted Mountain-gems dueling fiercely in mid-air.