Arizona Hummingbirds Jul 22—29, 2007

Posted by Brennan Mulrooney

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Brennan Mulrooney

Brennan Mulrooney was born and raised in San Diego, California. Growing up, his heart and mind were captured by the ocean. He split his summer days between helping out behi...

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There is a short list of locations in North America that are absolute must-visits for a birder. Southeast Arizona has a prominent spot on that short list. The list of birds found here and nowhere else is well over 20 species, and the diversity in general is fantastic. Put that together with some amazing scenery and an abundance of birder-friendly destinations and it’s easy to see why Southeast Arizona is so famous in the birding world. While there are many different sought after species here, ranging from the subtly distinguished flycatchers to the downright gaudy warblers, it’s the hummingbirds that are the real stars of the show.

Despite lower than normal numbers and diversity (due presumably to early rains and an amazing agave bloom keeping the birds away from the feeders), we still tallied an impressive 12 species of hummingbirds. Among these were several that are at the top of birders’ most-wanted lists. Throughout the trip we saw good numbers of Broad-billed Hummingbirds, and good looks at adult males never failed to elicit gasps of amazement from the group. In Patagonia, at the legendary Paton’s feeders, we all had superb looks at the distinctive Violet-crowned Hummingbird with its immaculate white underparts and glowing violet crown. Up in the canyons we encountered both Magnificent Hummingbird and Blue-throated Hummingbird. These two mega hummingbirds of Southeast Arizona both exceed five inches in length! Though we didn’t see huge numbers of hummingbirds, as we do most years, we did do quite well with the rare ones, scoring Lucifer, White-eared, and Berylline. All three of these beauties are easily missed in some years and were lifers for almost everybody.

While there was plenty of eye candy provided by all of those hummingbirds, I think that the most memorable moment was provided by a warbler. Not that this should be surprising. After all, Southeast Arizona is home to some pretty fantastic warblers. It was almost the end of the trip and we were getting toward the end of our last day in the Chiricahuas. We had been doing surprisingly well with the warblers, having already had great looks at Olive, Lucy’s, Black-throated Gray, Hermit, and Grace’s warblers, and the flamboyant Painted Redstart; we just hadn’t yet tracked down a Red-faced Warbler. Experience told me that it wasn’t going to be easy. At this time of year the warblers are off their territories and moving around quietly in family groups. Well, this family group wasn’t quite quiet enough. The incessant high-pitched begging calls of the juvenile led us right to them. Then for at least half an hour we watched as both parents made repeated foraging runs, always returning with their bills brimming full of bugs to shove down their eager offspring’s throat. It was a truly amazing experience; the parents were so single-minded in their task that they appeared totally oblivious to our presence and foraged all around us as we sat spellbound.

Of course this just barely scratches the surface of our fantastic time in this legendary place. Other highly sought species that we encountered included: Montezuma Quail; Gray and Zone-tailed hawks; Spotted Owl (in daylight!); Elegant Trogon; Arizona Woodpecker; Gilded Flicker; Greater Pewee; Buff-breasted, Dusky-capped, and Sulphur-bellied flycatchers; Tropical and Thick-billed kingbirds; Mexican Chickadee; Bridled Titmouse; Black-capped Gnatcatcher; Bendire’s and Crissal thrashers; Botteri’s Sparrow; Yellow-eyed Junco; Varied Bunting; and Scott’s Oriole.