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Throughout much of our region, hummingbird identification is relatively straightforward. Aside from some areas of the southwest, there are usually no more than four species that can be expected at a single locale. And most of the US and Canada only have but a single species that is expected. But come fall, things start to get interesting. In recent years, several species have been documented far from their "normal" range and Rufous Hummingbird is now seen annually throughout much of the East.
The first step in identifying a hummingbird is to place it in the correct group. Size is often helpful in this respect, but judging size is often tricky from a single photo. The hummingbird feeder in this photo suggests that this bird isn't very large or very small. Still, there are better places to start. First, this bird has fairly extensive wash of warm buff coloration to the sides and flanks. The extent of this coloration suggests Selasphorus (Rufous, Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Bumblebee if we're really dreaming) or Calliope Hummingbird. True, some immature Archilochus (Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in particular) can have some buff coloration on the flanks, but the extent on our bird would be at the extreme. [We can also look at the uniformly broad primaries of our bird. They are also unlike Archilochus].
Let's now look carefully at the tail. Rufous and Allen's Hummingbirds have extensive rufous in the tail, and the uppertail coverts are edged in rufous. Our bird lacks rufous on the uppertail coverts and the tail is only moderately edged in rufous. Another strike against Rufous or Allen's Hummingbirds is that the flanks of those species are usually a more deep rich cinnamon in color.
From a single image, separating Broad-tailed Hummingbird from Calliope can sometimes be challenging. One of the best ways, is to examine the relative length of the tail and wings. The wings of the Calliope Hummingbird are slightly longer than the length of the tail (unlike our bird, where the tail is noticeably longer). Furthermore, our bird appears larger with a longer, heavier bill and more rufous edging to the tail than we would see on a Calliope Hummingbird. For the sake of completeness, Bumblebee Hummingbird is smaller still, with a much smaller bill and more heavily marked throat and darker cinnamon flanks.
This leaves us with Broad-tailed Hummingbird. In addition to the features already mentioned, the distinct post-ocular spot and green upperparts are typical of female and immature Broad-tailed Hummingbirds
This Broad-tailed Hummingbird was photographed the Wet Mountains of Pueblo Co. Colorado, in August 2002.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the August Bird Photo Quiz—Broad-tailed Hummingbird:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Chris Wood.