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Early Winter. Owls, finches, waxwings, longspurs, Snow Buntings, bloody-cold pelagic trips, gulls and...hummingbirds? Yes. Hummingbirds. Late fall and early winter are now the premier season for finding stray hummingbirds, at least across most of the ABA area. Throughout much of the ABA area, reports of Rufous Hummingbirds barely cause raised eyebrows anymore. And many birders and bird-watchers have learned that keeping hummingbird feeders can produce some startling results.
So picture this, you look out your back window and see this! Hummingbird! In December! At your feeder! Boo-yah! Cha-ching! At the very least a delighted "Oh my!" But what is it?
Hummingbird identification can be tricky, sometimes impossible. There are entire books and DVDs devoted to the subject of hummingbird ID.
But here we have a bird that's cooperative. The first step is always to eliminate the common species. Since we don't know where we are, this is hard. Either Ruby-throated or Black-chinned Hummingbird is found in much of our region, and the face pattern bears some similarity to a female of those species. But the face pattern is on the strong side, even for the most strongly marked birds. Some other things are also wrong. First, the underside of the bill appears red. While pollen can color a hummingbird's bill and face, it would not do so where the underside of the bill appears uniformly reddish-pink and the top appears black. Also note the green spotting on the side of the breast.
The combination of bill color and green spotting to the side of the breast and face pattern really only leaves us with Broad-billed Hummingbird. The bill does look broad at the base and the white corners to the relatively broad tail that is slightly cleft are also classic feature of Broad-billed Hummingbirds. This female Broad-billed Hummingbird was photographed at Clifton, Colorado in November 2002 (and was a first for Colorado).
For those of you particularly interested in hummingbird identification, you have a variety of material to choose from. I particularly recommend Steve Howell's Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the December Bird Photo Quiz—Broad-billed 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.