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(11 February 2001)

All photos © Hilton Pond Center

Thanks to a call from Colleen and Wayne Girard of Casar, North Carolina (between Shelby and South Mountains State Park), staff from Hilton Pond Center recently were able to capture and band a female Rufous Hummingbird first seen coming to the Girard's feeder on 5 January 2001.

An initial attempt to capture the hummer was made on 10 February, but unusually warm weather and ensuing swarms of European Honey Bees kept the hummer away from the feeder. An overnight cold snap slowed down the bees, and the bird was caught about five minutes after setting a pull-string trap on the morning of 11 February.

Based on measurements and other characteristics, this particular bird proved to be a female Rufous Hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus, apparently in her second year. Her throat was moderately marked, with eight metallic bronze feathers showing in the gorget (above); bases of her outer rectrices (tail feathers) had some rufous coloration (left, and bottom photo). The bird was exhibiting synchronous molt of her wing feathers, with the seventh primary on each wing "in quill" (ensheathed) about half way (right). Rufous Hummingbirds have ten primary (main wing) feathers that are numbered in descending order from the outside in. In the photo at right, the top (outside) feather would be the #10 primary. The #7 primary is "in sheath" and is obscuring primary #6. Primary #1 is barely visible behind the bander's thumb. Not shown are the six secondary wing feathers, which begin next to primary #1 and continue inward toward the juncture of the wing and body.)

By far the most unusual thing about this Rufous Hummingbird was her upper mandible, which overhung the lower by slightly more than 2mm and gave her a moderately hook-billed appearance (right). The overhanging tip was extremely flexible. Usually the upper and lower mandibles are equal or very nearly so in this species; what may have caused the bill anomaly is unknown.

Observers in the Carolinas and other eastern states are reminded to report ANY winter hummingbirds (15 October through 15 March) to Hilton Pond Center at RESEARCH. If possible, our staff will attempt to capture and band the bird or will contact another bander nearby who may be able to do so.

POSTSCRIPT: This hummingbird was recaptured at the same location on 1 November 2001.

All photos © Hilton Pond Center
From Oct 15 to Mar 15
Please report
your sightings of all
Vagrant & Winter Hummingbirds
east of the Mississippi

For much more information about hummingbirds, visit
Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.