Calliope Hummingbird

S.C. Calliope Hummingbird 2003

A snowstorm came through here in the Irmo area, a suburb in the Piedmont side of Columbia, S.C., on January 23, 2003. On January 28, 2003, when the weather had warmed and the snow was long-gone, I was startled to spot a very small hummingbird at the feeder.

It was quite small, with a green back, white throat, and pale buffy underneath. It came to the feeder every few minutes, then returned to perch, across about 15 feet of lawn, in plain view in the edge of an island of azaleas and pines.

Some rufous color was evident near the tail when it perched. What was most striking was that the wingtips extended slightly beyond the tail. It had some white fluff underneath that stood out.

It appeared to be a Calliope Hummingbird!

The next day, I got a view of its front, and saw some vertical streaks on the throat, suggesting an immature male. This was confirmed on January 31, when master bander Susan Campbell, a member of Bob Sargent's Hummingbird Study Group, came down to identify and band the bird. She arrived shortly after 7am, in in time to see the first feeding around 7:20am. She immediately confirmed the Calliope ID from the call notes it seemed to make constantly. Just as she said, the bird came to the feeder in the trap (cage) very quickly--under 10 seconds! Within 30 seconds from the setting of the trap, she had the bird safely in her hand for measurement and banding. We caught this on videotape.

It was indeed an immature male Calliope in good health. Not previously banded. Owing to some fat deposits, he weighed in a bit heavy at a "whopping" 2.65 grams, which is still under 1/10 oz.! One could mail TEN of these birds with a single first-class stamp.

After a few moments, Susan gingerly placed the bird onto the flat extended palm of my hand. In at most two seconds, it took off and away. It returned to feeding almost immediately. Thanks, Susan, for a job well-done!

After some days, it came only infrequently. The last sighting at the feeder was on February 8. It seems that it wanted to move on and resume its journey, wherever it was going.

I am posting two photos taken by Susan Campbell of the bird in hand. In one, the gorget is clearly visible. Steven Tracy came over on February 1 to take pictures of it coming to the feeder. With great patience he managed to take the two photos of it hovering at the feeder. Thanks to them both for permission to post the photos!

Photos copyright Steven Tracey (hovering) 2003 and Susan Campbell (in hand)

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