The Hummingbirds of SaddleBrooke

Male Broad-billed Hummingbird (photo copyright Bob Bowers)

Of SaddleBrooke’s many birds, probably the most fascinating are our hummingbirds. No other birds are so jewel-like, so tiny, so acrobatic or so aggressive. Hummingbirds can fly in ways no other birds can match: vertically, backwards and horizontally, as well as hover almost indefinitely. Their high metabolism, rapid heartbeat (as high as 1,200 beats per second) and wing beats (as high as 90 per second) require them to consume an enormous quantity of nectar and insects daily.

Hummingbirds are thought to have originated in Europe, but today are found only in the Americas, from Alaska to Argentina. There are about 330 species across this range, and almost all of them are found from Mexico south. Only 17 species are known to have bred in the U.S. and Canada, and only one, the Ruby-throated, is regularly found east of the Mississippi. We are particularly fortunate in Arizona, where we can see 16 species, more than in any other state.

I’ve documented 5 species here in SaddleBrooke, with a possible 6th on the “suspect” list. Our two most common hummingbirds are the Costa’s and the Black-chinned. Although hummingbird colors can vary amazingly, depending upon light reflection, as a rule male Costa’s show a rich purple crown and gorget, and male Black-chinned have a black head and crown with a white neck band. The distinctive gorget on a Costa’s is similar to Yosemite Sam’s sideburns. Costa’s are our smallest hummingbird, and Black-chinned bills are longer than Costa’s. Both of these species are currently present in SaddleBrooke. The Costa’s can be seen here year-round, but the Black-chinned winter in Mexico.

SaddleBrooke’s most beautiful and unmistakable hummingbird is the Broad-billed. The male has an iridescent turquoise head and crown, a blue chest, dark wings and an orange bill ending in black at the tip.

Anna’s hummingbirds are present in Arizona year-round, but more commonly seen in the winter. Anna’s are larger and chunkier than Costa’s, and their tail extends beyond the wingtips, two ways to differentiate them. Male Anna’s have a bright red head and crown.

The fifth documented SaddleBrooke hummingbird is the Rufous, and the male, with his bright copper-colored body, is unmistakable. You can look for Rufous hummingbirds in July and August, when they are migrating south.

A sixth possibility in SaddleBrooke is the Broad-tailed, which has been documented in Catalina State Park. The male Broad-tailed has a brilliant hot-pink gorget, which contrasts sharply with a white breast (Anna’s breast is more gray). Broad-tailed hummingbirds also can be identified by a distinctive wing trill in adult males. This species can be observed closely at the feeders at Iron Door restaurant in Summerhaven on Mt. Lemmon.

(This article, copyright June 12, 2009, was published in The Saddlebag Notes, July 2009. Note that since publication, the Broad-tailed Hummingbird has in fact been documented in SaddleBrooke.)




About Bob

A lifelong naturalist, Bob's avocation is birding, including field observation, study, photography and writing. He spent a career in computers and consulting, but his free time has been spent outdoors backpacking, fishing and enjoying nature firsthand. Bob has traveled extensively, exploring and photographing above and underwater in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Egypt and throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America. Now retired, as an amateur ornithologist Bob studies, photographs and writes primarily about birds of the Western Hemisphere. Formerly the Feature Writer for Latin America and Caribbean Travel at, he has been Suite101's Feature Writer for Birds and Birding since January, 2010, and has received seven Editor's Choice awards, which are listed below. Bob also writes a monthly birding column for a newspaper in Arizona, and his work appears in the travel magazine, Another Day in Paradise, published in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. His blog, Birding the 'Brooke and Beyond, discusses birding, travel and other topics in Southeast Arizona and beyond. Bob is a member of the National and Tucson Audubon Societies, Western Field Ornithologists, Arizona Field Ornithologists, the American Birding Association and other birding and conservation organizations. Bob and his wife, Prudy, live in the Santa Catalina Mountain foothills near Tucson, Arizona. To date, Bob has received Suite101 Editor's Choice awards for the following articles: • Birding by Cruise Ship in the Caribbean • The Xantus' Hummingbird, Baja California's Only Endemic Hummer • Birding the White Mountains in and Around Greer, Arizona • The Greater Roadrunner, New Mexico's State Bird • Where to Find Steelhead on the Lower Deschutes River in Oregon • Birding La Bajada near San Blas, Mexico • The 2008 Christmas Bird Count at Estero del Yugo in Mazatlan
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1 Response to The Hummingbirds of SaddleBrooke

  1. ALICE AVAKIAN says:

    I love my humingbirds thet are fushia throated and head . a few ar orange in color. thet have be her in tarzana since february. are the green irresdesent one female.

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