So, what have we observed about our little RTHU?
- White tips on the tail feathers – female or immature male
- Absence of the characteristic red throat feathers – female or immature male
- White throat with well-defined dark streaking – almost always an immature male
- A pointed wing tip shape on the #6 primary – I’m guessing it’s a pointed #6 wing tip on this bird – male
- Brown edges on some green feathers (visible behind this bird’s eye) – juvenile male or female
- Clean, bright shiny feathers without wear – juvenile male or female
Male or female? Adult or juvenile?
I’m guessing it’s a “hatch year male” – meaning it’s a juvenile male, hatched this season that will not molt and get its adult plumage until winter when it will be somewhere in Mexico or Central America. On January 1 of the year following its hatch date (by scientific convention) it will become a “first year” RTHU. When it returns to my feeder in the spring (yes, it likely will remember my feeder’s location) it will be a handsome “first year male” with vibrant red gorget plumage ready to stake out and defend a territory.
I named this little bird Chipper because of how it “chipped” at me! It’s scolding sounds were something between a chip, a cheep and a chirp. It’s “hum” was loud and I could feel a strong breeze on my hand from rapidly beating wings.
If you’re in an area with hummingbirds, I hope you either have a feeder or have been inspired to get one. For those in the Eastern U.S. and Canada, there’s no time to waste this season as RTHU migration is ramping up and they won’t be with us much longer. In other parts of the Americas you may have your species of hummers near you for longer than we, so enjoy them.
Here are some links to information maintained by Bill Hilton, Jr., the naturalist who guides citizen scientists in RTHU studies.