Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
Nevada City, Nevada County, California
28 August 2008
Joseph Morlan

Photos © 28 August 2008 by Joseph Morlan. All rights reserved.
Today Dan Singer and I made arrangements to visit the home of Rudy Darling in Nevada City to see the Ruby-throated Hummingbird which was first found and identified on Saturday, 23 August. We arrived at Big Blue Road about 2:15pm and settled into the chairs on the back deck kindly provided by Rudy. Our first sighting was about 2:30 when the Ruby-throated Hummingbird appeared in the Madrone growing through the upper deck of the house, after which it perched on the dead snag of a cherry tree near the birdbath. It fed briefly from the feeder and then moved back into the Madrone before disappearing. About 10 minutes later, we met Ted Beedy who had managed to get some digiscoped images of the bird. We observed the bird on and off for the next two hours. It was quite skittish, making photography difficult and frustrating. Left and below are the best photos I was able to obtain using a Panasonic LZ5 camera hand-held to my Nikon FieldScope 3ED with 30xWA eyepiece.

A photo by Rudy Darling is here. Additional photos by Rudy Darling are below. Other photos by Rudy Darling and by Ted Beedy have been posted here (group membership required). A photo by Walt Carnahan has been posted here (This photo appears to have been removed and replaced by one by Steve Abbott).

Added 31 August 2008 Outstanding photos taken 30 August by Steve Abbott have been posted here.
Added 1 September 2008 Rudy Darling reported that the bird was last seen 31 August. It was missed 1 September.


The following description is based on memory and on the photos.

A small hummingbird slightly smaller than a nearby Anna's Hummingbird (no direct comparison available). The bill was short and black.

The upperparts were entirely bright green, sometimes with a bluish or golden cast depending on the light. The gorget usually appeared dark or glittering greenish-orange, but when the light hit it right, it was a bright fire-engine red color (see photos left and below). Above the red gorget was a narrow black band extending from the chin under the crown and below the eye and ending above the ear coverts. This dark band formed a "mask" when seen in good light. A small white spot was behind the eye.

Below the gorget was a broad white collar wrapping around the back of the neck, but not connecting at the nape. This pattern recalled that of male Black-chinned Hummingbird. The rest of the underparts were white with a greenish-gray wash to the sides and upper flanks.

The tail was quite distinctive when the bird fanned it while hovering over one the feeders. The feathers appeared black and pointed, but the outer rectrices were much longer than the central rectrices, thus forming a rather deep fork visible when the tail was spread. When the tail was folded, it appeared long and pointed. No vocalizations were noted.


There are nine previously accepted records of this species for California. Five of these are Fall records from Southeast Farallon Island spanning 21 August - 12 September. Most interesting is the fact that the first record for California also came from Nevada County and was also an adult male. It was caught accidentally in a mist net intended to trap bats at Sagehen Creek Field Station on 15 May 1975. This bird was correctly identified as a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the time, but when the specimen was accessioned into the museum at UC Davis, the identification was reportedly "corrected" to Broad-tailed Hummingbird. The true correct identification of this specimen as a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was eventually unraveled by Andrew Engilis Jr. and Kimball Garrett.

Identification of females and immatures can be perilous and this is underscored by five previous mainland California sightings which were not accepted by the California Bird Records Committee.

Additional photos © 25 August 2008 by Rudy Darling. All rights reserved.