Confusion over true identity

Who are you little bird?  Are you a Rufous Hummingbird, with your bright chestnut-colored plumage and iridescent orange throat, or are you a similar-looking Allen’s Hummingbird with iridescent green feathers on your back?

Male Rufous/Allen Hummingbird

Who are you?  This was a most uncooperative little male.  It simply would not turn to face the light so I could photograph that brilliant orange  throat.

Male Rufous/Allen Hummingbird

The green feathers don’t cover the bird’s back as they normally would in an Allen’s Hummer, but the green coloration is apparently variable in both.

To further confuse the issue, Rufous Hummingbirds migrate through California, from their breeding grounds in northern Canada and southern Alaska to their wintering areas in Mexico, the longest migration for a bird of that size (3 inches, 2-5 grams).  They should have passed by this area in Los Angeles already.  But weather patterns have been strange this year, and fall migration of some species delayed.  Occasionally migrants stray from their southerly course and “stay over” in unexpected places. So this might be an errant Rufous hummer after all.

According to Sheri Williamson at, if the back of the bird is less than half green, you can safely call it a Rufous Hummingbird.  What do you think I should call this impertinent male?

6 thoughts on “Confusion over true identity

  1. What should you call him? Handsome! That bird is spectacular, Sue. We have only a single species of hummingbirds where I live (Ruby-throated), so I can’t help much with the identification.

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