March 25, 2013
In August of 2006 when I was finishing up my training to band hummingbirds, Bob Sargent placed band no. E14593 on a juvenile bird at our cabin in the Davis Mountains. When I first recaptured this bird in March of 2008, it was obvious the now adult male was a hybrid. Hybridization between Black-chinned and Broad-tailed hummingbirds in the Davis Mountains is not uncommon. Yesterday, I was up at the cabin restocking feeders and E14593 has returned for his 7th year! I do believe this is a longevity record for a hybrid individual. At the moment he is trying to defend all five feeders that are hanging. In 2010 Dr. Chris Clark captured video of the displays of this hybrid individual and the results were published in The Condor 114(2): 329-340. During that research a spectacular picture of this bird was taken by Anand Varma (below). If you want to enjoy Anand’s photographic prowess, go to www.varmaphoto.com. Other than the pic below my favorite hummingbird picture is the female Lucifer Hummingbird standing on the edge of its nest. Thanks Anand for your beautiful photographic contributions.
February 26, 2013
It has been an amazing winter for hummingbird abundance and diversity here in west Texas. I completed my January and February sampling rounds today. The results were:
- Lucifer Hummingbird – 1 return/recap; AHY male (originally banded Aug 2009 as an adult; first observed 2/23)
- Black-chinned Hummingbird – 2, 1 SY male on 1/17 in the Christmas Mts.; 1 AHY female in the Davis Mts. on 2/3; very rare in winter.
- Anna’s Hummingbird – 45 new birds banded and 10 returns/recaps (4 from Nov and Dec, 4 from Jan, 1 from Dec 2011, 1 from Nov 2011)
- Costa’s Hummingbird – 1 AHY (adult) female on 1/14 (34th record for Texas if accepted by the TBRC)
- Rufous Hummingbird – 6 new birds banded and 10 returns/recaps (all from Nov, Dec and Jan)
- Allen’s Hummingbird – 3, new birds banded in Lajitas on 1/14, 1/28 and at CMO 2/26; 1 return/recap on 1/17 near Willow Mtn. (banded in Dec)
Total = 79 birds, 57 new birds banded and 22 returns/recaps
January 15, 2013
Problems with your hummingbird feeders? See the article by Carolyn Ohl-Johnson under special links section to your left to fix just about every problem.
January 10, 2013
2012 was the year of the post-drought blues. Actually, the year started that way but ended with a very productive and exciting fall. You can read all about it in our annual report located in the “Activities and Information” section above. One thing is for sure, the drought of 2011 was severe. It affected all bird populations, not just hummingbirds. In this year’s report I have tried to provide comparative data to show just how it affected diversity and abundance as documented by our long-term study.
January 11, 2012
Three new features have been added under the “special links” section on the left hand side of the main page. First, you can now download (through a link to the TPWD website) my regional checklist Birds of the Trans-Pecos, a field checklist. Second, A Checklist of Texas Birds (seventh edition) is available for download via a similar link. Finally, if you want to see some preliminary results from our banding effort you can take a look at my powerpoint presentation on Lucifer Hummingbirds given recently at the IBBA conference in Weslaco, Texas. I am making this presentation available for personal use only.
In the next couple of weeks I hope to add one more important item to this section. Again, based on the overall effort of our banding team, I have compiled an Identification, Aging, Sexing and Data Guide to West Texas Hummingbirds. It is my desire that this document and the information presented within it be received as a important aid to hummingbird banders across North America as well as providing useful information to the general birding populace.
December 22, 2011
We learned something in 2011. Primarily, we learned that if nature decides to become extreme then we have little choice but to hang on to the rope and ride it out. The Trans-Pecos Region of Texas is situated in the northern portion of the vast Chihuahuan Desert and as such is subject to extremes at times. However, in 2011 just about every aspect of our desert environment became extreme. The lack of rain since the early fall of 2010 produced conditions that were perfect for devastating wildfires in April, May and June. Over half a million acres burned in the region during this period. Add to that the persistent heat, constant dry winds, and lack of water and insects; it was a recipe for disaster in both the lower desert and high mountains. If the human inhabitants of the region were suffering just think about the wildlife. The landscape that was their grocery store had little to offer, especially for animals that were considered primarily insectivorous. At one point during the peak of spring migration I watched a Dusky Flycatcher move through the forest understory at our cabin in the mountains. It stayed less than a foot off the ground and barely had enough energy to move. It ignored a nice water source we had there, one that had a few flies and other insects hovering around it. The instinctual drive to continue north was dictating its movements; however, I will bet you a million bucks it did not make it another mile before it died. Unfortunately, such was the fate of thousands of migrant birds this year in the mountains and lower desert alike.
For hummingbirds, the key to survival was the sugar-water feeder. Sugar-water solution provided the energy supplement that they needed to either scour the landscape for a few available insects (their primary food source) or move on out of the region to areas where insect populations were normal. You would think that desert-adapted species would be mostly immune to the conditions we were experiencing. Not so! Even Lucifer Hummingbirds congregated at feeder stations in unprecedented numbers as you will see in our 2011 report. Then they invaded the mountains. Other species changed their pattern of occurrence as well. One of the first indicators of this was a male Blue-throated Hummingbird that abandoned the higher mountains on May 8th and found Carolyn’s courtyard at her house in the Christmas Mountains Oasis (a desert habitat). When first noticed, the bird was panting and its wings were drooping badly. After drinking from the feeders for a few hours it looked totally normal and moved on that same evening.
The Broad-billed Hummingbirds that were finally breeding in the Davis Mountains totally changed their patterns too. Normally, congregated around Marc and Maryann Eastman’s house, a few were found elsewhere but only a lone banded female graced their yard. She was finally caught on September 22nd verifying the fact that she was banded by us the previous year. White-eared Hummingbirds were a total no-show, save a lone male that was observed and photographed by our neighbor, Barbara House, in early August. So the question here was did they know it was a bad year in west Texas and decided to go elsewhere? If so, how? Did they arrive and then leave? Of course, we do not know the answers. Several Blue-throateds did find refuge in the Davis Mountains, where breeding has yet to be confirmed. Then in July, another male was found at a desert location at one of our banding sites and was captured and banded. We hope that he survived and will return in 2012 to find environmental conditions improved. The sad fact is that breeding hummingbirds in the region had little to no reproductive success in 2011, even our most common species–the Black-chinned Hummingbird. This same fate befell almost all other species of birds as well.
Once fall migration began, hummingbirds were congregated at feeder stations in large numbers and our capture rate reflected that increase. We caught record numbers of Calliope, Rufous and Allen’s hummingbirds and you can read all about the success of the project in the report attached above. In the end, it was our most productive year yet.
As usual we have made other improvements to this site. An updated guide to west Texas hummingbirds has been provided via the link above. Over the next month or so we will be updating the species accounts section, mostly with additional new pictures. Although we have been banding hummingbirds here for five years now, this is the third year of comprehensive, systematic trapping and banding. Each year has been different and the data reflect that. What will we find in 2012? Will the weather patterns producing the current drought continue as forecast? Will hummingbird abundance and distribution change once again? Tune in next year at this time to find out the answers. We can’t wait to find out ourselves! KBB