Florence Merriam Bailey.

Handbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley online

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tail 2.50-2.70.

Remarks. The white markings distinguish this swift from vauxii,
whether seen from above or below.

Distribution. Western United States from the Pacific coast east to the
region of the Black Hills, western Nebraska ; and from Montana south to
Lower California and Guatemala.

Nest. On cliffs or in caves, glued to the rocks, made of vegetable
matter and stiff feathers, lined with bark fiber and a few feathers. Eggs :
4 or 5, white.

Food. Aerial insects.

There is one bird that needs no protective legislation for itself or
nest. The home of the white- throated swifts is in the air around lofty
peaks and cliffs, where they circle and wheel and dart on curved,
cutting wings with arrow-like speed. As you stand on the crest of
a ridge where they pass, there is a flash of black and white and a
bullet-like whizz as one after another goes by, and you wonder that
any living thing can move with such speed. I have seen collectors
who were good wing shots fire till their gun barrels were hot and
turn away with empty belts and only a single specimen of the swifts.
As the birds seldom come to low altitudes it is not strange that they
should be rare in collections. Their nests, placed in crevices or
caves half way up inaccessible cliffs, have rarely been taken.




1. Exposed culmen half as long as wing or longer.

Calothorax, p. 242.
V. Exposed culmen less than half as long as wing.

Fig. 299.

2. Exposed culmen not more than .50 ; outer tail feathers

black-barred and white-tipped in both sexes . . Atthis, p. 241.
2'. Exposed culmen more than .50 ; outer tail feathers not black-barred

and white-tipped in both sexes.
3. Nostrils nearly or wholly naked.

4. Tail blue black in both sexes, upper parts metallic grass green.

lache, p. 244.

4'. Tail not blue black.


5. Exposed culmen not more than half as long- as tail ; with white

stripe back of eye Basilinna, p. 243.

5'. Exposed culmen more than half as long as tail ; without white

stripe back of eye Amizilis, p. 243.

3'. Nostrils nearly or wholly feathered.
4. Wing more than 2.40.

5. Tail chiefly black gorget of male intense blue.

Cceligena, p. 234.
5'. Tail wholly (male) or partly (female) greenish bronze, gorget

of male emerald green Eugenes, p. 233.

4'. Wing less than 2.25.

5. Middle tail feathers broader near end than toward
base spatulate Stellula, p. 241.

Fig. 300.
5'. Middle tail feathers narrower near end than toward base.

6. Tail partly rufous Selasphorus, p. 238.

6'. Tail without rufous.

7. Adult males with top of head like gorget ;
females with outer tail feathers broadly
linear Calypte, p. 236.

7'. Adult males with top of head like back ;
females with outer tail feathers concave on
inner side .... Trochilus, p. 234.


426. Eugenes fulgens (Swains.). RIVOLI HUMMINGBIRD.

Bill flattened and slightly widened at base ; tail slightly forked in male,
double rounded in female ; tarsus feathered.
Adult male : top of head metallic purplish, gorget
brilliant emerald green ; rest of upper parts bronzy
green ; under parts blackish green or dull bronzy,
breast black in some lights. Adult female : top of
head dull brownish, small white spot behind eye ;
rest of upper parts bronzy green ; lower parts
brownish gray, sides washed with green ; tail with
outer feathers very broadly tipped with pale gray
or whitish. Young : similar to adult female, but
feathers of upper parts with pale buffy edgings.
Male: length 4.50-5.00, wing 2.90-3.10, tail 1.90-
2.00, bill 1.00-1.20. Female: wing 2.60-2.75, tail
1.70-1.90, bill 1.00-1.15.

Distribution. Mountains of southeastern Ari-
zona and mountains bordering tablelands of Mex-
ico to'Nicaragua. From Kidgway, !

Nest. Usually in maples, sycamores, or firs, Fig 303

35 to 50 feet from the ground, made of silky plant

fibers and grass tops, coated with lichen and lined with sycamore down
and feathers.

Food. Largely insects from flowers such as honeysuckle and agave.


Mr. Willard of Tombstone, Arizona, says that the noise made by
the wings of the Rivoli hummingbird lacks the sharpness of that of
the smaller hummers and compares it to the buzzing of an im-
mense beetle or bumblebee. He adds that the male may often be
seen near the top of some dead tree catching insects like a flycatcher.
Mr. W. W. Price reports that the hummers feed from iris and also
agave flowers. In the Chiricahua Mountains Dr. Fisher found them
gleaning from the flowers of a boreal honeysuckle. Mr. Price
records them only between the altitudes of from 6500 to 9500 feet.


427. CoBligena clemencise Less. BLUE-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD.
Tail more than two thirds as long as wing-, slightly rounded, feathers
very broad ; bill less than one third as long
as wing. Adult male: gorget azure blue;
streak from bill and back of eye white ; up-
per parts dull bronzy green, changing to
purplish black on upper tail coverts and
tail, outer tail feathers tipped with white ;
under parts slate gray washed with green on
sides. Adult female : similar, but throat
buffy instead of blue. Length: 4.50-5.40,
wing 2.90-3.20, tail 1.85-2.20, exposed cul-
men .85-1.00.

Remarks. The females of the blue-
throated and the Rivoli can be easily dis-
tinguished by the tail, which in the blue-
throated is blue black, in the Rivoli largely

From Ridgway, Smithsonian. bronzy green.

Fig. 304. Distribution. Southern Arizona, western

Texas, and mountains of the tablelands of Mexico to Oaxaca.

Nest. Fine mosses and oak catkins, bound together with web, placed
in the fork of a small shrub, or on a fern. (Breniger.) Eggs : 2, white.

Among the little restless, darting, scintillating hummers of the
United States, the big, quiet, sober-colored blue-throats seem more
like foreign birds, and really are only visitors across our border from
Mexico. Whether bathing in the spray of a slender mountain fall,
or feeding from flower to flower, they have a low hum and quiet
ways, perching frequently on a branch to twitter a little song and
preen their feathers, or climbing about among the flowers of a big
agave in search of food in real oriole fashion. VERNON BAILEY.


General Characters. Male with metallic gorget not elongated on the

^ ^ sides ; tail forked or deeply emarginate, the feathers

^^^^ijSjf pointed, but the outside ones not extremely narrow ;

Fi 3Q5 six inner primaries abruptly and conspicuously smaller

than the rest with their inner web more or less notched

or toothed at tip. Females with outer tail feathers concave on side.




1. Throat velvety black. Rocky Mountains to the Pacific.

alexandri, p. 235.
1'. Throat metallic crimson. Plains to Atlantic . . . colubris, p. 235.

Subgenus Trochilus.
428. Trochilus colubris Linn. RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD.

Adult male, Chin velvety black, scales of gorget brilliant crimson, upper
parts bronzy green ; under
parts dark gray glossed with
green; wing with six inner
primaries abruptly shorter
than the rest. Adult female :
tail with middle feathers all
green, the rest green basally,
then black ; three outer pairs
broadly tipped with white.
Young male : similar to adult
female, but throat streaked
with dusky, and feathers of
upper parts edg'ed with pale
buffy. Young female : sim-
ilar, but throat without
streaks, and tail more
rounded. Male : length 3.07-
8.25, wing- 1.60, tail 1.25, tail
forked for about .30-.35, ex-
posed culmen .5S-.65. Fe-
male : length 3.50-3.85, wing
1.80, tail 1.20, bill .70.

Distribution. Breeds
from the Atlantic to western

parts of Nebraska and Tex.-is, ,

and from Labrador south to
Florida ; migrates to Cuba, Mexico, and Central America.

Nest. A felted cup of soft vegetable fibers coated with lichen and
fastened with web ; saddled on to a twig or small branch of a tree, usually
10 to 20 feet from the ground. Eggs : 2, white.

Food. Largely minute spiders and insects.

The ruby-throated hummingbird has been reported as breeding in
the western parts of Nebraska and Texas.



Trochilus alexandri Bourc.

Adult male. Gorget above opaque velvety black, below metallic violet glit-
tering- with purple, blue, and peacock green lights; upper parts
greenish ; under parts soiled whitish, green on sides. Adult
female : upper parts bronzy green ; under parts grayish ;
tail much rounded, middle pair of feathers about the longest
and wholly green, next two feathers green tipped with black,
outer three tipped with white. Young : similar to adult female,
but feathers of upper parts tipped with buffy or rusty and
throat of male streaked with dusky. Male: length 3.30-3.75, wing 1.70-
1.75, tail 1.25, bill .70-.75. Female: length 3.90-4.10, wing 1.90-2.00.

Fig. 307.


Distribution. Breeds in Transition and Upper Sonoran zones from
British Columbia south to Lower California and from the Rocky Moun-
tains and Texas to the Pacific ; winters in Mexico.

Nest. In trees or bushes 4 to 8 feet from the ground, made of white
or sponge-colored plant down, covered with spider web, sometimes with
addition of leaves or flowers. Eggs : 2 or 3, white.

Food. Largely minute insects.

In southern California the black-chinned hummer may often be
seen sunning himself on an oak twig, his dull black throat relieved
by a violet band that glints green and blue as he turns his head.
Ordinarily he seems the quietest, most unemotional of humming-
birds, but if fortunate you may come on him when performing his
aerial love-dance. One that I once watched took his stand below
his lady's perch and fixing his eyes upon her swung shuttling from
side to side in an arc, with the sound and regularity of a machine.
He never turned around or took his eyes from hers, but at the end
of the arc less than a yard in length always threw himself back
by a quick spread of his tail. She sat as if hypnotized, her long bill
turning as he turned, her eyes following every motion with droll
absorption. In spite of her flattering attention, however, when his
dance was over and he looked up for approval, she apparently made
some slighting remark, for he whizzed off in a hurry and was seen
no more.

In Los Angeles County, California, Mr. Grinnell says black-chins
are summer residents from the lowlands to the tops of the moun-
tains, but most abundant in the foothills, where they breed in can-
yons some years by the thousands. Their numbers vary with the
rainfall, as the abundant flowering plants that follow a wet winter
afford them ample food. At Phoenix, Arizona, Mr. Bailey found
that one of their favorite feeding flowers was the desert Fouquiera.


General Characters. Adult males with tail emarginate or
slightly forked, outside feathers abruptly narrower
than the rest. Adult females with outer tail feath-
ers decidedly narrower than the rest, but with broad
rounded end.


Fig. 308. KEY TO ADULTS.

1. Males with gorget and top of head purplish red ; females with under
parts brownish gray anna, p. 237.

1'. Males with gorget and top of head metallic violet ; females with under
parts white costse, p. 236.

430. Calypte costse (Bourc.). COSTA HUMMINGBIRD.
Adult male. Head, gorget, and long faring ruff brilliantly burnished



, Smithsonian.

. ^

metallic amethyst violet changing to blue and green ; back, rump, and mid-

dle tail feathers green or bronze, outer feathers purplish dusky ; tail

slightly forked, outer feathers abruptly narrower

than pair next them ; under parts whitish, belly

glossed with green. Adult female : under parts

whitish, throat more or less spotted with metallic

purple ; sides greenish ; upper parts and middle

tail feathers bronzy green, other feathers grayish

brown at base, with black subterminal band and

white tip. Young : similar to female, but duller,

and feathers of upper parts narrowly tipped with

buffy whitish. Male : length 2.75-3.20, wing 1.75-

1.90, tail 1.10, bill .65-68. Female: length 3.55-

3.70, wing 1.70, tail 1.05, bill .70.

Remarks. The scales on the crown distinguish
costce from any common hummingbird except j^g. 31o r
anna, and in costce the glitter is bluish purple,
never pinkish as in anna. The females of anna
and costai may be distinguished by the small size of costce, and female
costce from females of Selasphorus and Atthis by absence of rufous on tail.

Distribution. Breeds in Lower Sonoran zone from southern parts of
New Mexico and Utah to southern California ; migrates to Lower Cali-
fornia and other parts of western Mexico.

Nest. Loosely made of plant down or shreds of plant fiber lined some-
times with feathers and covered with bits of gray lichen, bark, and leaves,
bound with web ; placed from 1 to 6 feet from the ground, on cactus, in
bushes or trees. Eggs : 2, white.

Food. Insects found on plants and shrubs such as squaw cabbage,
wild rose, plum, and cherry.

The habits of the Costa hummingbird seem to differ little from
those of the family except that it is somewhat more of a desert-loving
species. Dr. Fisher states that it is the common hummingbird of
the desert valleys and mountains of southern California and Nevada.
He has seen it hovering over a bunch of flowers by moonlight. Mr.
F. Stephens reports the rare sight of a male hummer helping to build
the nest.

431. Calypte anna (.Less.). ANNA HUMMINGBIRD.

Adult male. Top of head, gorget, and long ruff brilliant metallic deep
rose pink with bronzy and green lights ; upper
parts and middle tail feathers metallic green or
bronzy ; tail decidedly forked, without rufous or
white; feathers widening gradually from outside
to middle ; under parts whitish glossed with
green. Adult female : similar except on head and
tail ; crown green like back ; throat usually
specked with rose. Young : similar to adult female, but feathers of upper
parts edged with brown. Male : length 3.40-3.60, wing 1.90-2.00, tail
1.30-1.45, bill .65-.70. Female: length 3.80-4.15, wing 2.05, tail 1.30,
bill .75.

Remarks. Female anna is larger than the females of costce, or of Tro-
chilus alexandri or colubris.

From Ridgway, Smithsonian.
Fig. 311.


Distribution. Central and southern California, chiefly west of the
mountains, southern Arizona, and Lower California.

Nest. Plant down covered with bits of green mosses and lichens, fas-
tened by web, sometimes lined with feathers or fur ; placed usually 8 to 15
feet from the ground, in trees or bushes often overhanging- water. Eggs :
2, white.

Food. Spiders, small insects, and nectar from flowers ; also sap exud-
ing- from sapsucker punctures.

"Like all the hummingbirds this species follows the flowers, and
its local presence or absence is governed by their abundance or
scarcity. Thus, in August and September hundreds of Anna hum-
mers are to be found over the stubble fields and sunflower patches,
attracted by the flowers of the 'tar-weed.' Dining the winter
months they are found in profusion about the blossoming eucalyptus
trees. In January and February when the weather is mild, they
appear high on the mountain sides among the flowering manzanitas ;
and in March and April in the blossoming orange groves in the
valley, and about the currant bushes on the hillsides." (Joseph


General Characters. Adult males with outer primary narrow and
pointed ; tail feathers partly rufous, more or less grad-

Fie. 312


1. Top of head red like g-org-et floresii, p. 238.

1'. Top of head greenish, unlike gorget.

2. Upper parts mainly rufous rufus, p. 239.

2'. Upper parts mainly green.

3. Gorget purple platycercus, p. 238.

3'. Gorget scarlet alleni, p. 241.

[431.1.] Selasphorus floresii Gould. FLORESI HUMMINGBIRD.

Adult male. Top of head and gorget brilliant metallic red ; middle tail
feathers green bordered with rufous, outer tail feathers wholly dusky ; belly
white; sides and flanks green. Adult female: unknown. Length: 3.25,
wing 1.75, tail 1.40, exposed culmen .65.

Distribution. Mexico. Recorded at San Francisco and Haywards.

432. Selasphorus platycercus (Swains.). BROAD-TAILED HUM-

Adult male. Gorget without elongated sides, deep rose pink ; top of head
bronzy green like back and middle tail feathers ; other tail
feathers purplish black, some of them edged with rufous ;
under parts whitish, sides glossed with green. Adult female
and young : upper parts bronzy green ; under parts whitish,
the throat with dark specks, sometimes with a few central
feathers like gorget of male ; sides brownish ; three outer
tail feathers rufous at base, with a black sub terminal band
Fig. 313. and white tip ; a touch of green on the second and third


feather between the rufous and black, the fourth feather green but
marked with a terminal or subterminal spot of black, and edged with
rufous, tip often white. Male: length 4.00-4.25, wing- 1.92-
2.05, tail 1.40-1.60, bill .62-.70. Female : length 4.10-4.70,
wing 2.00-2.10, tail 1.45-1.50, bill .70-.72.

Remarks. The females of platycercus and rufus must be
carefully discriminated. In platycercus the middle tail feath-
ers are wholly green, in rufus brown at base ; in platycercus
the rufous of the outer feathers is basal and of less extent
than the black ; in rufus the rufous equals or exceeds the black ; in
platycercus the next to the middle feather is mainly green, in rufus the
rufous covers as much ground as the green, black, and white all together ;
in platycercus the outer feather is .25 broad, in rufus .12 broad.

Distribution. Breeds in Transition and Canadian zones of the Rocky
Mountain district from Idaho and Wyoming to mountains of Arizona and
New Mexico ; west to the Sierra Nevada ; migrates to Guatemala ; recorded
from Oakland.

Nest. Usually within 15 feet of the ground on branches of trees,
often overhanging a mountain stream, made of willow or cottonwood down
covered with lichen alone, or lichen, bark, leaves, and plant fibers. Eggs :
2, white.

Food. Insects found on flowers of Castilleia, Fouqueria, Gilia, Agave,
and others.

Major Bendire says that the broad-tailed hummingbirds breed in
the lower foothills and valleys on their first arrival from the south,
but by the time the young are able to fly the flowers have ceased
blooming and the country is getting so dry that they go to the moun-
tain parks to raise their second broods.

At 9000 feet in the Sacramento Mountains we found the birds
abundant the last of May feeding from the gooseberry bushes.
The noise they made in buzzing about the bushes and flying through
the air was a metallic rattle strikingly different from the noise made
by rufus, colubris, alexandri, or any other hummingbird I had ever
heard. In addition to a squeaky little song the hummers had some
small staccato notes.

When camped at Little Spring, San Francisco Mountain, Dr. Mer-
riam found platycercus very abundant. They came to the spring to
drink and bathe at daylight. He says: "They were like a swarm
of bees, buzzing about one's head and darting to and fro in every
direction. The air was full of them. They would drop down to
the water, dip their feet and bellies, and rise and shoot away as if
propelled by an unseen power."

433. Selasphorus rufus (GmeL). RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD.

Adult male. Gorget fire red, orange, and brassy green ; general body
color bright reddish brown, glossed with bronzy green on crown and some-
times back, and fading to white next to gorget and on belly ; tail feathers
rufous, with dark mesial streaks ; middle tail feather broad, pointed at
tip, second from middle deeply notched on inner web, sinuated on outer web,


Adult female : upper parts bronzy and rufous, rufous on rump and tail
coverts ; under parts whitish, throat sometimes with a few
central brilliant feathers ; sides shaded with rufous ; tail feath-
ers rufous at base, the middle ones green nearly to base ; outer
ones with broacl. blackish subterminal band and white tips ;
outside feather more than .10 wide. Young males: similar to
adult female, but feathers of upper parts edged with rusty,
rump rufous, and throat showing specks of metallic red. Young
females : similar to young males, but rump green and throat
specked only with green. Male: length 3.25-3.70, wing 1.50-1.60, tail
1.30-1.35, bill .60. Female : length 3.50-3.90,
wing 1.75-1.80, tail 1.25-1.30, bill .65-.70.

Remarks. The male may be told by its
reddish back and the nick in the second tail
feather. See remarks under S. platycercus.

Distribution. Breeds in Transition and
Canadian zones of western North America
from the higher mountains of southern Cali-
fornia and Arizona north to latitude 61 in
Alaska ; during migrations east to Montana,
Wyoming. Colorado. New Mexico, and west-
ern Texas ; winters in southern Mexico.

Nest. Lined with down, and decorated
with mosses, lichens, and bark ; often placed
in ferns, bushes, trees, and vines overhanging
Fig. 316. Rufous Hummingbird, embankments. Eggs: usually 2, white.

Food. Insects such as those found on wild

currant and gooseberry bushes, cherry-tree blossoms, fire-weed, Castilleia,
Gilia, Pentstemon, and Agave flowers.

During the spring migration rufus, the big brown hummer, is
common in southern California, especially about the blooming orange
groves and the wild gooseberry bushes scattered through the cha-

On the birds' breeding ground the flowers they feed on, as far as
I have observed, are mainly red, as the hummer's coloration might
suggest. On San Francisco Mountain, Arizona, they were es-
pecially fond of the scarlet pentstemons. On Mount Shasta they fed
from the painted-cups, tiger lilies, and columbines. Any spot of
red would attract them as it does other hummers, and they investi-
gated it fearlessly even when it adorned the person of a collector.

One of the birds actually crossed a wide meadow of green brakes
straight to a single columbine standing most inconspicuously near
the woods. But the painted-cups were their especial delight on
Shasta, and a meadow full of the flowers was fairly alive with them.
When attending strictly to his meal a hummer would circle sys-
tematically around the cup, probing its tubes as he went, but for
the most part the squeaking, pugnacious little scraps would be
whizzing in and out, gleams of green, gold, or scarlet glancing
from their gorgets as they streaked after one another, climbing the


air bill to bill, or shooting up and sweeping down apparently from
sheer exuberance of spirits. They seem to be always quarreling
among themselves, and when it comes to other species of their family
they attack and drive them off with promptness and decision.

As soon as the last brood is out of the nest, Mr. Henshaw says,
the males, warned by the frosty nights and the decreasing supply of
food, start at once for their winter quarters, leaving the females and
young to follow later.

434. Selasphorus alien! Henshw. ALLEN HUMMINGBIRD.

Adult male. Similar to rufus, but whole back as well as crown bright
bronzy green, two outer tail feathers very nar-
row, and second from middle without notch or sin-
uation ; outer feather much less than .10 wide.
Adult female : similar to female rufus, but with I
outer tail feathers not more than .10 wide, Male: v .
length 3.25-3.30, wing 1.50-1.55, tail 1. 10-1.20,
. ../ exposed culmen .60-.65. Female : length 3.40, wing

1.65-1.70, tail 1.05-1.15, exposed culmen .68-.70.
Distribution. Breeds in Transition and Upper Sonoran zones from
southern British Columbia south along the coast, and east to southern
Arizona ; migrates to Lower California and Sonora, Mexico.

Nest. A cup compactly made of plant down covered with green mosses,
usually placed on weed stalks, hedges, or bushes overhanging water. Eggs :
2, white.


436. Atthis morcomi Ridgw. MORCOM HUMMINGBIRD.

Similar to Stellula, but tail feathers not inclining to spatulate, the outer
two or three broadly tipped with white in both sexes ; feathers of gorget
in male broader and without white bases. Adult male : unknown. Adult
female : upper parts bronzy green, becoming brownish on forehead ; tail
rufous at base, then, on middle feathers, green ; other feathers narrowly
green and then black, tipped with white, white tip wanting on fourth
feather ; under parts white, with tear-shaped flecks of dusky green on
throat ; sides marked with black and rufous.

Online LibraryFlorence Merriam BaileyHandbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley → online text (page 28 of 65)