Jump to content
Whatbird Community

Rufous or Allen's hummingbird Central Texas

Recommended Posts

If it makes you feel any better, these two species could very well one day be combined as one species since they are identical in almost every way except: very subtle differences in the tail feathers, green back on adult male Allen's / red on Rufous (though some Rufous can have green backs), and a barely perceptible difference in the sound of their breeding display. Where they overlap (a small area in Oregon) they likely hybridize a lot (suggesting the birds themselves don't feel they're 'different species'). From Birds of North America:


Reports of Allen's Hummingbirds with up to 40% rufous in back (Patterson Patterson 1988Patterson 1990Pyle 1997c) apparently did not eliminate possibility that such birds might actually be hybrid Rufous × Allen's, back-crosses, or even members of a hybrid swarm. This problem is pronounced in the narrow range of overlap between the species' breeding ranges in sw. Oregon, where male Selasphorus seem to have widely varying amounts of green on the upperparts (R. Cooper pers. comm.) and courtship displays that may be intermediate between Allen's and Rufus have been observed (A. McCallum pers. comm.). Hybridization between the two species is likely, given their abutting ranges, and multiple authors have speculated that a significant number of specimens are actually hybrids (Newfield 1982, McKenzie & Robins 1999, Colwell 2005).

Either way, whatever name you put to it, a very cool bird to have in your yard.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for that information, tedsandyman.  I don't feel bad about the lack of distinguishing marks between the two species, but I like to be specific (pun intended) when observation allows.  I think the birds I see are rufous, but I will have to  await the arrival of a mature male to be certain.  I had a mature male that took up residence near my backyard from December through February of the last two winters.  I had prepared two feeders.  When one iced up, I would replace it with the feeder kept at room temperature in the house.   

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...