On October 21st, Joe Flood spotted a hummingbird coming to the feeders in his backyard in Devon, PA. Joe thought it may just be a late moving Ruby-throated Hummingbird but had had a Rufous Hummingbird visit his yard the year before, so he posted photos on the PA Birders Facebook page looking for another opinion. While looking at the PA Birders page, I noticed that the bird looked like it could possibly be a Calliope Hummingbird. The white area of feathers between the gape of the bill and the bird’s eye was distinct and is not a field mark shown on the other Selasphorus hummingbird species (as of this past summer, Calliope Hummer is officially a Selasphorus). The bird’s tail was also quite small.
Joe had sent photos to PA Hummingbird bander, Scott Weidensaul who agreed the bird was likely a Calliope. Plans were made to attempt to capture and band the bird. Nick Pulcinella lives very close to the Flood’s home, so he and Wayne Laubscher banded the hummer on November 1st. They were able to confirm the bird’s identity as a Calliope through measurements and up-close observation. It was determined that the bird was an immature male. Also of note is that this individual has a lot of missing feathers on the back of it’s head and throughout its underside, but seems to be active and healthy. This Calliope Hummingbird represents the second state record for PA. The first Calliope in PA was discovered by Sarah Boucas at her yard’s feeders in Montgomery County on November 5th, 2003 and was confirmed by Devich Farbotnik, Jason Horn, and others on November 26th, 2003.
I was eager to go see the little hummingbird. Coincidentally, a few other rare birds had been reported in that area of the state. On November 3rd my friends and I were fortunate enough to spend almost two hours at Joe Flood’s home, watching the hummingbird as it would fly into the yard and feed from all the late-blooming salvia plants. Only once did the hummer use the actual hummingbird feeder. The Calliope periodically perched on exposed branches of a nearby pear tree and a dogwood.
From my experience with attracting rare winter hummingbirds, there are at least 4 things that really seem to lure them in – a hummingbird feeder, late-blooming plants like salvias from which the bird’s can feed, a pear or apple tree with tall and exposed branches for perching, and dense conifer or juniper-type trees for the bird to keep warm in. It also helps to create a beautiful wildlife oasis in your yard, which is exactly what the Flood’s have. We stayed for a little less than two hours and saw 33 species from the yard (eBird list) including many migrating raptors, feeders birds, and others. A birder that stopped by before we got there had gotten pictures of a flock of Evening Grosbeaks in the yard! Currently, Joe has opened his yard to serious birders wishing to view the Calliope on weekdays only, between 7:00am and 4:00pm. Check the PA Birds listserve for more information about visiting.