BIRD OF THE WEEK: 10/3/2014
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Selasphorus sasin
HABITAT: Moist Pacific coastal areas during breeding; forest edge and scrub in Mexico in winter
If you thought this was a Rufous Hummingbird, you're not far off: The Allen's Hummingbird is very similar to the closely related Rufous Hummingbird, and the two species occasionally hybridize. In fact, female and juvenile Allen's and Rufous Hummingbirds usually cannot be easily distinguished from one another in the field.
Allen's stands apart from Rufous in other ways, though: This species has one of the most restricted breeding and wintering ranges of any U.S.-breeding hummingbird, very unlike the wide-ranging Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
Allen's migratory pattern is also unusual. Males arrive on breeding grounds in the middle of winter, leaving Mexico as early as late fall, and depart breeding grounds as early as late spring.
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"I worked for several seasons at Point Blue Conservation Science at Point Reyes National Seashore," says George Wallace, ABC's Vice President for Oceans and Islands. "It was a sure sign of spring when the first displaying male Allen's showed up in late February, though we had to wait a long time for other neotropical migrants to arrive!"
Male Allen's Hummingbirds on their territory have a spectacular display, starting with a pendulous, shuttling flight and followed by a high-speed, J-shaped dive from about 100 feet. As if the display alone weren't enough, the dive is accompanied by a loud buzz and metallic shriek.
These birds are also extremely aggressive, routing any other male Allen's, other hummingbird species—and even birds several times larger than themselves, such as kestrels and hawks.
In his recent book, Steven Johnson coins the term “Hummingbird Effect” to make the point that innovation in one realm can trigger unpredictable and unexpected advancement in others. We not only agree, but have dozens of examples of how great American bird conservation projects make considerable, sometimes unexpected contributions to other important causes including amphibian conservation, human health, food safety, climate change, water conservation, and home energy savings. Support the Hummingbird Effect today.
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