[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2013] – Today the flower beds of “Pride of Madeira” Echium candicans at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery were alive with hummingbirds. Numbers and diversity went up several notches in the last couple days. I found Anna’s, Costa’s, Black-chinned, and Rufous partaking of the purple boraginaceous flowers. There were probably some Allen’s mixed in there too. My clear favorites however were these Calliope Selasphorus calliope which dived in when the more aggressive species were off taking a break someplace. I photographed at least three different males and one or two females and suspect the true number I saw may even be higher.
Female Calliope are certainly a bit tricky to pick out. Studying the structure and GISS (general impression of size and shape) of the males can be helpful to pick out a female. I think the real key is recognizing the tail size and shape, it looks like someone took a bite out of the middle, together with the impression of tail to body length ratio. They also hold the tail a little cocked some of the time appearing almost like a Christmas tree ornament hanging by a thread. The female photographed below rotated in flight around a flower head in front of me. It showed off the short squared-off tail which, apart from the bold white tips to the outer tail feathers, is mostly black looking. The shape of the central tail feathers (r1) is also diagnostic being wedge-shaped at the end. You might never see these features with the naked eye and binoculars but digital photography provides it!