Calliope, Rufous and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can all be observed in Calgary during the summer. However, in the winter, they don’t stand a chance of surviving the harsh climate and so they head south, spending their winters in Mexico and Central America. In Houston, we normally only see one species of hummingbirds, Ruby-throated, especially as they migrate through in the fall. However, this weekend I noticed some unusual behavior for a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and upon closer inspection, I confirmed my suspicions; I was seeing a female Rufous hummingbird, a species that turns up now and again in the winter in Houston. So how did I know it was a Rufous?
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the Rufous hummingbird as “the feistiest hummingbird in North America”; many other sources say the exact same thing. This species is very aggressive, territorial and defensive and will not hesitate to chase other hummingbirds. That’s why, when I noticed a hummingbird chasing all the other hummingbirds, my first thought was a Rufous. Sure enough, I got glimpses of Rufous plumage as the bird whizzed around, harassing the others. I didn’t expect to see the Rufous up close and personal but it was my lucky day, it came and perched directly in front of me!
It was definitely an interesting experience and it shows how knowing certain habits and behaviors of birds can help you identify the species before you’ve actually seen looked at the bird through binoculars.