Hummingbirds on the Pacific Flyway

As we mentioned last week, the remarkable Rufous Hummingbird is making its way through California right now as part of its spring migration. But the Rufous is not the only hummingbird enjoying the California landscape these days, and not the only one busy during the spring. There’s also the Anna’s Hummingbird, the Allen’s Hummingbird, and the Black-chinned Hummingbird. Odds are that you’re already familiar with these flyers. If not, here is a quick primer on a few of the hummingbirds around us and what they’re up to this time of year. These certainly aren't all the hummingbirds, but they're a good start. (photo of Anna’s Hummingbird by Lee Karney/USFWS)

Anna’s Hummingbird

The Anna’s Hummingbird might be the most common of the hummingbirds to frequent California. Once restricted mainly to west side of California and Baja, it has expanded its range clear up intoCanada– but still sticking to the far west. It’s a striking bird, with green feathers and a red-pink chin. This hummingbird’s migratory patterns are complicated and, to a nonscientist, hard to follow. It doesn’t head down to South America or anything like that. Instead, it might move to higher elevations or other local areas more to find food than anything else.

Allen’s Hummingbird

The Allen’s Hummingbird looks quite a bit different from the Anna’s, but similar to the aforementioned Rufous. It has a lot of rust in its feathers, with a bit of green, and pink around the chin. Unlike the Anna’s, the Allen’s has a distinctive migratory pattern between breeding areas along the California and Oregon coasts to winter areas of southern Mexico. The thing is, the timing of this migration is a bit unusual. It will arrive in Californiafor breeding season as early as January, and then start heading back south to “winter” as early as May or June. To illustrate this, here’s the eBird map of observations from December 2011, then January of this year. Here’s where they are now in late March, compared to what it will look by August. (using a snapshot of August 2011). (photo by USFWS)

Rufous Hummingbird

As we mentioned in our earlier post, the Rufous Hummingbird is coming up the coast right now from its winter ground in Mexico. People are seeing them in California as the birds head toward the Pacific Northwest and Canada to breed. (photo by USFWS)

Black-chinned Hummingbird

The Black-chinned Hummingbird enjoys a wider range than any of the other hummingbirds on this list. While it is a migratory bird in the northern part of the state, the birds in the far south probably look more like residents. When they do migrate, they’re heading down to the west coast of central Mexico. The Black-chinned Hummingbirds begin to arrive in northern California in April – compare March of last year to the following April. (Photo by Peter LaTourrette)

Costa’s Hummingbird

This is a classic desert bird, known to frequent the hot places of the Southwest, includig the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. That said, it’s not always at the desert – in the really hot months, it may move over to the scrub habitats of the Pacific Coast. It is a migratory bird, but the patterns vary among the birds that reside and breed in specific deserts and in Mexico. That said, the eBird maps show some definite movement between the cooler month of February and the warmer June -- showing some piling into cooler habitats in California. This bird’s distinctive feature is the iridescent violet crown. (photo by Peter LaTourrette)

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