03 March, 2014

Hummingbird Update - Part Three

The dashing Rufous-tailed Hummingbird is today's featured hummingbird.  Below is the first photo I took of it before I had even ID'd it.
Not the best shot, but enough to let us know that it is not a Cinnamon.
The Rufous-tails are essentially the same size as the Cinnamon Hummingbirds that also feed on these hibiscus flowers.  
Easy to see here how it differs from the Cinnamon; the Rufous-tails are mostly green on the front with a little grey on the belly and amazing white "femoral tufts" (fuzzy feathers on their legs), whereas the Cinnamons are, well, cinnamon colored on their fronts.
Rufous-tailed hummingbirds are the most common and widespread hummer in Belize, but we were never able to see them long enough to photograph them or recognize them until we had feeders up.  They nectar on banana and coffee bean flowers, both of which are cultivated on large and small scales throughout Central America.  Check out one of my earlier posts about banana flowers.
Here is a good view of the green gorget and upper chest and paler grey-green belly.
It took them longer to start using the feeders than it did the Cinnamon Hummingbirds.  And of course the experienced Ruby-throats, newly migrated from the abundant feeders in the US, were the ones that showed the Cinnamons what a feeder was all about. 
Heads up!  Ever on alert for danger or competition.
Rufous-tails have a reputation as being the most aggressive of the Belize hummers. I have seen them chase off the larger Green-breasted Mangoes and they are known to chase off insects and basically anything that approaches "their" feeder.  
From this vantage, you can see the lower mandible is red and the upper is black.
They even stand their ground against us as we tend to our outdoor activities.  They back off from the feeder and face us, chattering and fussing to persuade us to leave.  If we continue to work outside, they are the first hummers to resume feeding and basically ignore us unless we get within 5 or 10 feet of the feeder.
The tip of both lower and upper mandibles is black.  This is a fairly common theme in hummingbirds, but can still be a useful tool for IDs.
This next photo is very similar to the last photo is the previous post.
This Rufous-tail looks a lot like a Cinnamon from this angle, but notice that there is no cinnamon color on the side of the neck and the overall green color is darker on the Rufous-tail.
From the front there is no confusing the two.
Look at the gorgeous emerald green gorget sparkling in the sunlight!
There are reports of hybridization between Cinnamons and Rufous-tails, but I haven't seen images of the offspring.  For all I know, some of these are photos of hybrids.  Hybridization is pretty common within the hummingbirds and can make it difficult, but quite interesting, to ID individuals.

When the gorget catches the light just right, it lights up with a spectacular iridescence.
An impressive display, even out of focus.
Rufous-tails are very determined feeders and put on incredible acrobatic antics when defending their feeder from other hummers, even from other Rufous-tails.
Steely-eyed determination ...
The striking Green-Breasted Mango will be featured next, so stay tuned.