- Photo(s): Bill Kaufman
When it appeared in Sabino Canyon above the dam, it instantly become a magnet for birders all over Tucson
I first encountered this beautiful neotropical hummingbird several years ago when it appeared in Sabino Canyon above the dam during the “banding” season. It instantly become a magnet for birders all over Tucson. Since it nests in Sycamore trees, its appearance in Sabino should not have been a total surprise, but to my knowledge, one has not appeared in Sabino since. It can be found in much of central and western Mexico from Oaxaca North through Jalisco, Sonora, and Western Chihuahua. These birds are considered rare to occasional in southeastern Arizona in riparian zones and are often seen at the Paton Hummingbird Center in Patagonia. They appear to be expanding their range northward (climate change?).
One afternoon in mid-December, I heard a “clacking” noise that did not sound anything like the Anna’s hummingbirds that usually come to my backyard feeder. I looked out and was thrilled to see a fairly large hummer sitting on the feeder that on further investigation turned out to be a Violet-crowned Hummingbird. It is considered a medium-sized hummingbird, noticeably larger than an Anna’s. Immediately apparent is the bright white underparts, iridescent violet crown (if the light is right), and long red bill with a black tip. The female is less colorful than the male. Like other species of hummingbird, the Violet-crowned is promiscuous with the male playing no part in raising the young.
Since he came back every day for about a month, I was able to observe him on a regular basis. He was a bully and ruled the roost. As soon as an Anna’s appeared he would fly in and chase it off, whether or not he was thirsty himself. He was not bothered by my presence and I could sit outside and photograph him to my hearts content. In late-January I was disappointed to find that he had left. One evening in mid-March he returned to the feeder, but I have not seen him since. He needs to look for a mate. Watch for him in the Canyon.