By Dan Weisz
Here are some hummingbird photos taken in two different backyards this week. In my backyard, this young Costa’s Hummingbird was sitting in shadows so the colors of his gorget do not glow purple at this time. However, you can see a number of white pin-feathers on his face. Those are the feather shafts of new feathers that are growing out. In a short while, those pin-feathers will unfurl to show the gorget feathers that will glow under the right lighting conditions.
The Costa’s turned his head just enough so that one or two purple feathers lit up. Soon, there will be no white evident in this hummingbird’s throat or on his head. But for now, he’ll have this black and white look. The new feathers that are growing in are covered in a wax that the bird will clean off while it preens. That will allow the new feather to unfurl.
The Costa’s flew underneath the canopy of a nearby mesquite tree. You can see the mesquite trunk behind him. A few more feathers (on his head) are showing the purple glow in this light.
At my brother and sister-in-law’s house, I found a few more hummingbirds in their backyard. A tiny feeder was the site of a polite discussion between two hummingbirds. The one on the left, a female Broad-billed, seemed to be in control of the feeder when the other hummingbird landed. They had a relatively civil discussion and then the second hummingbird flew away without feeding.
A Costa’s Hummingbird waited at another feeder for a turn. You can see that this is a young male who is growing in his gorget feathers. As one of my friends states, “he’s fixing to be a man.”
I was excited to see a male Anna’s Hummingbird at the big feeder. This is yet another male bird that is growing in its gorget feathers. All birds molt feathers annually. At this time of year, first-year birds are finally growing in their adult plumage while adults are dropping old feathers and growing in new ones.
A close-up of the Anna’s shows off those new gorget feathers. If you look closely at the base of this bird’s bottom beak, you may also see what I believe is a very tiny flower mite in the shadows. It looks like a black dot there. These tiny insects live inside flowers and move from flower to flower via transport on the bill or face of an unknowing hummingbird.
The Anna’s Hummingbird would at times fly up from the feeder, hover, and then come back down to feed again.
There were also colorful male Broad-billed Hummingbirds around, but I never was able to get a photo of one. The Broad-bills seemed to favor the most distant hummingbird feeder in the yard. Next time, though, I’m sure to get one.