National Geographic : 1932 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE RUBY-THROATED HUMMING BIRD (Archilochus colubris) The ruby-throat is the most generally known of its family, from its extensive range in eastern North America. A subdued hum, perhaps ac companied by a mouselike squeaking note, at tracts attention to these tiny birds working alertly and vivaciously about beds of flowers in gardens, or the naturalist may come across them in wood land or in fields, where they pass with the direct flight of bees, but with startling rapidity, or stop to feed at jewelweed, thistles, trumpet vines, and other blossoms. Many interesting experiments in feeding hum ming birds have shown that it is possible to at tract them about yards and gardens, principally in late summer, by providing supplies of syrupy sugar water in small bottles suspended from sticks where they are easily accessible. Some have concealed such containers in artificial flow ers, but this is not necessary. Miss Althea Sher man has found by experiment that one hummer will consume regularly a teaspoonful of sugar daily, an astonishing amount, considering the size of the bird. The nest of the ruby-throat is placed ordinarily in open woodland, on a small limb, at an elevation where it is difficult of access. Like other species of the family, the female makes her nest and rears the young alone, the male showing no interest in these domestic problems. This species nests from Alberta, central Sas katchewan, and Nova Scotia south to Florida and the Gulf coast, ranging west to North Dakota, central Kansas, and central Texas. In winter it is found from central Florida and Louisiana south through Mexico to Panama. COSTA'S HUMMING BIRD (Calypte costae) Costa's hummers frequent growths of sage and greasewood, other shrubbery, eucalyptus groves, or similar haunts. Ordinarily they are rather quiet, but become more active and vivacious at the approach of the nesting season. The display of the male before the female at this season is most curious. Ascending in the air to an eleva tion of one hundred feet or more, he swings down at dizzy speed past his mate, at rest on some low perch often near the ground, passing within a few inches of her, and then rising to an altitude equal to that of his starting point, on the opposite side. During this flight he produces a loud, whirring sound that often is the only indication of the dis play, as the downward speed of the tiny bird is such that the flight is completed before the eye can be directed toward it. At the finish he may dart away in a series of zigzag turns. The male utters a low whistling call that is quite peculiar. In its nesting, Costa's hummer is not as soli tary as most of its family, since in favorable lo cations several nests may be found in a small radius. The nest is less compactly built than in the case of the ruby-throat and its relatives. Costa's humming bird is found in the warmer sections from southern Utah and southern Cali fornia south through Lower California, Arizona, and New Mexico. It is rare in winter in Cal ifornia, being found at that season in Lower California and northwestern Mexico. BLACK-CHINNED HUMMING BIRD (Archilochus alexandri) While this species has an extensive range in western North America, where it is common over a wide area, it is best known in the Pacific Coast region. It has the general habits and customs of the ruby-throat, of which it is the western coun terpart, but from the nature of its range inhabits drier areas. It is common in foothill regions in mountainous sections, where there are flowers to furnish suitable feeding grounds. I have ob served them frequently drinking at little brooks where the water trickled over stones, producing tiny falls and rapids, as their needs for water are not always met by dew, as is ordinarily the case in the ruby-throat. The nest of this species externally is covered with spider web, into which leaves, seed heads, and similar vegetable substances may or may not be woven. Ordinarily nests are placed from four to eight feet from the ground, saddled on small limbs. The eggs, as in other species of the group, are white. Usually there are two, but occasion ally nests are found with three, there being sets with this number in the collections of the United States National Museum. Two and possibly three broods may be raised in a season. The female is closely similar in color to the female ruby-throat, differing mainly in being slightly larger. This hummer nests from southern British Co lumbia to northern Lower California, Sonora, and Tamaulipas, ranging east to western Mon tana and central Texas. It winters in Mexico south to Guerrero and Mexico City. ANNA'S HUMMING BIRD (Calypte anna) This humming bird is one of the most fa miliarly known of the western species of the family, as it is a common resident in thickly populated areas as well as in the wilder districts. While it examines blossoms for food as regularly as any of its relatives, in the winter season, when flowers are few or absent, it secures its food of insects and spiders by searching the leaves of trees. It has also been seen feeding on tree sap and the insects attracted by such exudations about punctures made by sapsuckers in the bark of oaks. These birds nest from January and February until May and June, usually rearing two families each season, and at this period the male utters a series of twittering notes that form a pleasant little song. The nests ordinarily are located in the vicinity of water and are often placed on branches overhanging streams. Usually they are built of soft plant downs, but occasionally are formed of dried flowers of eucalyptus. The lin ing may contain a few feathers or occasionally the fur of small mammals. Though the male is distinct, the female is quite similar to that of Costa's hummer, differing in slightly larger size, darker gray underparts, and narrower outer tail feathers. Anna's humming bird is resident in California, mainly west of the Sierra Nevada, ranging south into northwestern Lower California. It is not known to perform regular migrations, but has occurred casually in Arizona in late summer.