National Geographic : 1932 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE LUCIFER HUMMING BIRD (Calotho rax lucifer) This handsome species is apparently a casual visitor from Mexico along our southern border, being, so far as known at present, rare and un usual in occurrence. The first one known within our limits was taken by Mr. Henry W. Hen shaw near Camp Bowie, in southern Arizona, on August 7, 1874. It was found, with a host of other hummers, about the flowering spikes of the agave. Subsequently this species has been obtained by the United States Biological Survey in the Chisos Mountains, in western Texas. In southern Mexico the Lucifer hummer is common. While it feeds at flowers, it is said also to visit the great spider webs, abundant in its southern home, to pick off small insects that have become caught in these nets, the hummer moving circumspectly through the mazes of the web to avoid being entangled in turn. The larger spiders resent this pilferage and rush at the bird, which darts to a safe distance in stantly. The beautiful feathers of this species were among those used by the ancient Mexicans to cover the famous feather mantles made in the time of the Montezumas, the gorgeous reflec tions of the Lucifer hummer being especially decorative. In a family noted for its aggressiveness, this species is reputed to be more active and pugna cious than most. The nest and eggs are of the usual type found in this group. Lucifer's hummer is found in Mexico south to Mexico City, Puebla, and Chiapas. BROAD-BILLED HUMMING BIRD (Cynanthus latirostris) Within the United States, this handsome hum mer is found in the foothills of the small moun tain ranges of southern New Mexico and Ari zona. It inhabits arroyos, canyons, and the bor ders of streams, perching on dead twigs at the tops of bushes or low trees, resting in the sun on cool mornings, and seeking perches in shade in the heat of the day. The light color at the base of the bill, prominent even at some distance, is a field mark that serves to distinguish this species from others of this region. The broad-bill seems quieter and less active than some of the species that have been described, and frequently, after aggressive flight in pursuit of some intruder, I have seen the-two combatants perch four or five inches from one another for a few seconds, while with raised wings they gave a low, chattering call. The ordinary flight is accompanied by a sub dued humming sound. The birds feed at flowers and also glean small insects and spiders from the underside of branches and among leaves. A nest in the National Museum collection in Washington is made of fine shreds of bark and plant fibers, bits of lichens and similar materials, bound together with spider web, the whole being coarser in construction than ordinary in this family. This species ranges from the mountains of southern Arizona and southwestern Mexico to the City of Mexico and Guerrero. XANTUS'S HUMMING BIRD (Hylocha ris xantusi) This handsome hummer was discovered in 1859 by the naturalist John Xantus de Vesey, who, through arrangement by Spencer F. Baird, then Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institu tion, had been sent to Lower California as a meteorological observer for the Signal Service. Xantus's hummer is most common in the Cape region of Lower California, being found in a variety of situations, from the hedges in the towns of the coast region to the live oaks of the highest mountains of the interior. The courtship display of Xantus's hummer is said to be confined to a flight during which the birds pursue one another through the trees. Though some nests are saddled on limbs, as in many other hummers, others are hung from sev eral small twigs or leaves at the tip ends of branches. The nests are made of the usual fine materials and soft linings common to the family. Though two eggs are found frequently, in numer ous instances nests contain only one egg or one young bird, indicating that either one or two eggs may constitute a complete set. The eggs vary greatly in shape, ranging from oval to elliptical. Many eggs and young are destroyed by ravens, who seek this small prey regularly. The male of Xantus's hummer has a pleasing song, uttered from some dead twig, and is heard often toward nightfall. While not particularly aggressive, these birds guard the nest locality jealously. The female differs from the male in having the entire undersurface brown and in be ing lighter green above. This species is restricted to the Cape region of Lower California, ranging north to latitude 29°. WHITE - EARED HUMMING BIRD (Hylocharis leucotis leucotis) This interesting species, one of the rarer hum mers of our list, found within our limits in the mountains of southern Arizona, is comparatively little known. The first specimen known from the United States was collected by Dr. A . K. Fisher in Fly Park, in the Chiricahua Mountains, in 1894. Since that time it has been found in other mountain ranges in southern Arizona and seems to be regular in its occurrence north of the Mexi can boundary. It ranges from 4,500 feet to 10,000 feet altitude and feeds principally at flowers, the honeysuckle being a favorite. The white line behind the eye is very promi nent in life and attracts immediate attention, so that on one occasion in the month of July, while watching the abundant hummers in Barfoot Park, in the Chiricahuas, I singled out a male of this species instantly when it appeared among the swarming individuals of other species. In Mexico this hummer is reported to be one of the most common of its family in the high lands, where it feeds principally at blossoms. The nest has been mentioned by one author, but no detailed description of the nest and eggs seems to have been given. It has been reported as seen carrying nesting material in the Huachuca Moun tains. An allied race is found in Nicaragua. This form ranges from the Chiricahua, Hua chuca, and Santa Rita Mountains of southeastern Arizona south through Mexico to Guatemala.