Rosy, the Rufous Hummingbird

It’s very unusual for hummingbirds to hang around during winters in Oklahoma. Typically the Ruby-throated or Black-chinned Hummingbirds (the ones most frequently seen in the state) leave by late September.  On occasion, a hummer will show up at feeders well past the time to migrate.  And on these rare occasions, the hummer is sometimes a rarity.

Rufuous Hummingbird, female

Rufuous Hummingbird, female

That’s the great good-fortune my friend Terri has had this year. A Rufous Hummingbird showed up at her Edmond, Oklahoma home in October and has remained even through a record-setting blizzard.

There is a hope that at some point, one of these Rufous Hummingbirds that over-winter in Oklahoma will turn out to be the rare Allen’s Hummingbird. The two species are very difficult to differentiate and it often requires capturing the bird.

In hopes of either confirming the ID as a Rufous or documenting a state record Allen’s, Dr. Chris Butler from the University of Central Oklahoma first attempted to capture and band Terri’s hummingbird in early October. The bird would not cooperate and a second — successful — attempt occurred December 23, 2009.  Terri and Chris collaborated on the banding and Terri produced a wonderful video of the process. (Terri has several excellent videos of the bird at the feeder on YouTube)

Dr. Butler initially described the bird while “in hand” as a hatch year male Allen’s Hummingbird. However, input from other banding experts and feedback from the Oklahoma Birds Records Committee indicate the bird is a female Rufous.  Terri had been calling the bird “Rusty” so the gender change called for a new moniker:  Rosy.

I enjoyed getting to photograph the hummingbird at Terri’s home on November 6th and hope to get more photos this winter.  This week Terri spotted a second hummingbird — we’re all still hoping for that elusive state-record Allen’s!

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