Calliope Hummingbirds

I’m exhausted and frazzled. This has been a crazy month for me what with having to move not just my site but four others to a new hosting provider. Day to day life has been wackier that I can remember in a decade and a half. Then last night my computer decided I hadn’t had enough and has gone bonkers on me. My regular email program won’t even open and Internet Explorer laughs at me and stalls.

So, this post is only going to have a few words and be mostly pictures or I wouldn’t have had the energy to do a post today. Yesterday I suggested to Ron that we stop near some Rocky Mountain Bee Plants on the island because I had heard hummingbirds there recently. I am pretty sure he is glad we did stop but he’ll take the credit for the idea 🙂

Anyway, I believe these are Calliope Hummingbirds but if I am wrong please do not hesitate to correct me, I don’t get upset about things like that. I am basing my ID on the fact that the wing tips were slightly longer than the tail which is a key for this species compared to Rufous and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds whose tails are longer than the wing tips.

Perched Calliope HummingbirdPerched Calliope Hummingbird – Nikon D300, f6.3, ISO 640, 1/640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I could hear the hummingbirds before I saw them and knew we might get some nice images of the birds as they fed on the Rocky Mountain Bee Plant.

Morning Light and HummingbirdsMorning Light and Hummingbirds – Nikon D300, f6.3, ISO 640, 1/640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The morning light made the iridescence of the hummingbirds glow and the flowers did too.

Stretching Calliope HummingbirdStretching Calliope Hummingbird – Nikon D300, f6.3, ISO 640, 1/1000, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

One of the tiny hummingbirds had a favorite perch where it would stretch and flutter its wings before it would head back to the wildflowers.

Calliope Hummingbird stretchCalliope Hummingbird stretch – Nikon D300, f6.3, ISO 640, 1/1000, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

And it struck some very interesting poses, like this one where it stretched, spread its tail and lifted its wings.

Calliope Hummingbird feeding on Rocky Mountain Bee PlantCalliope Hummingbird feeding on Rocky Mountain Bee Plant – Nikon D300, f5.6, ISO 640, 1/1250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Some of the hummingbirds chased each other around, but a little too far away to photograph. Others just feed on the nectar of the Rocky Mountain Bee Plants.

A Bee and Rocky Mountain Bee PlantA Bee and Rocky Mountain Bee Plant – Nikon D300, f5.6, ISO 640, 1/2000, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The hummingbirds weren’t the only creatures visiting the bee plants, there were Monarch Butterflies, a few Skippers, Yellow-jackets and bees.

Any help with the ID would bee appreciated.

My RSS feeds are stuck inside my cranky Internet Explorer so I will be slow to comment on all of your posts until I get this issues resolved. And unfortunately I don’t know anyone geekier than me so this computer may need a trip to the doctors.



  1. Larry Jordan August 30, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Absolutely stunning Mia! She looks very determined in that fourth shot with her head down in that typical pose.

    I agree with Jeff that she is a Calliope. The wingtips just beyond the tail in the first photo and showing the squared off tail in the fourth shot rule out Broad-tailed for me. The lack of the longer, un-notched tail feathers rule out the Rufous. You should have photographed a male! He would have been much easier to ID 😀

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      Thanks Larry, the consensus seems to be Calliope though I know that female and juvenile ID can be a challenge where three species are present during migration.

      I wish there were males present but they have already migrated though!!

  2. Utahbooklover August 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Sorry to hear about your computer issues—they are wonderful devices until they give you problems. Hope you get them resolved soon Mia. These photos are super but I don’t know what I’m looking at half the time. We get this same unknown hummer at our feeders, along with some black-chinned hummingbirds in Brigham City. The paper-wasps nest nearby but today I went after them with poision spray. In addition to harassing the hummers, I have been stung twice. Hate to do this, since they are beneficial insects.

  3. Loekie van der Wal August 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    The bee could be a Virescent Green Metallic Bee, as I can see green on the thorac area, the yellow on the belly and straight lines on the back.

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Thanks Loekie, I will look that up.

  4. Loekie van der Wal August 29, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Wow what awesome stunning pictures again, Mia. Did you take them out of your truck as a blind or did you go outside to be lower, more at their height. OMG you sure had your problems alright. I really hope that you were able to get the computer problems solved by another geek than yourself. All the best and keep those stunning pictures coming.

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 4:18 pm


      Going out and photographing right now is probably what is keeping me sane. These were taken from the pickup window, I think the hummingbirds might tolerate me being outside and using a tripod but I’d rather not risk disturbing them.

      My computer is in the shop, hopefully being repaired and I am using my ancient one for now.

  5. Jeff Cooper August 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Here’s my opinion after studying a few Calliope’s that visited my front porch feeder in recent weeks. They were studied side by side with Rufous Hummingbirds. I think you can rule out Rufous because the feathers on each side of the central tail feathers lack the notch seen on Rufous. Rufous would also show rufous coloring on the side of the rump area of the bird and much more in the tail feathers. Rufous also show a distinct white collar between throat and rufous sides and chest area. The tail of a rufous also comes to a point when the tail is closed. I would expect the tail to be longer relative to the wings when perched and more rounded than shown in these photos to be a Broad-tailed Hummingbird. I believe this is a Calliope based on the overall buffy color of the underside, the two central tail feathers being solid black and shorter than the other tail feathers and the tail being flatter along the bottom edge when fanned. The hump on the lower back and quick drop to a short tail have the shape I’ve seen on Calliopes. The one thing I’d like to see with Calliope is the white feathers at the base and edge of upper mandible. I think that could be hidden due to the amount of pollen on the birds bill and gape area. I believe I can see the thin black line (similar to the greater than > sign) between the eye and the bill. Another thing I think I’ve picked up on for Calliope is how the green spots on the throats of juvenile males and females seem finer and terminate with a flare to the outside of the neck where those marks on Rufous and BT Hummingbirds seem to be bolder and more vertically oriented down the throat. Interested in seeing comments from those with more experience.

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Thank you for such a thoughtful, detailed comment on the ID of these hummingbirds Jeff, I really appreciate your input. I think in the two days after these images were taken I also got some of juvenile & female Rufous and Broad-tailed.

      A plethora of flying jewels!

  6. Sheila August 29, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Mia, I think it might be a broad-tailed; look for the black streaking on the throat if Calliope. Just breathtaking shots.

  7. Tammy Karr August 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    These are such gorgeous shots, Mia! I love the pastels as well; just delightful!

  8. Eileen August 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Mia, they are lovely shots of the hummer. I am always amazed at your photos. Have a happy weekend!

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      Thank you Eileen, I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend.

  9. Hummingbirdlover August 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Love these little Jewels!!! Ours are coming about every 5 min’s and running each other off. This year 3 and 4 set in the Dogwood tree. This is the first time in 14 years that has ever happened.
    I am sure they will be gone sometime this coming week. I will miss them. Great photo’s keep up the good work U-2

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks Mom, I know you will miss your little hummers when they head south so I can share my photos of these with you.

  10. Elephant's Child August 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Oh. Oh. Oh. Hummingbirds pack a lot of magic into their tiny frames.
    That irridescence is incredible. And yes, how lucky that Ron wanted to stop. Thank you Ron, thank you Mia.

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      EC, hummingbirds do pack a lot of magic into their tiny little bodies!

      I think Ron thought I was a little nutty for wanting to stop.

  11. Kathie August 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Mia, I do think that you have a Calliope there. While it says little to no rufous in the tail, it still can have some for the calliope. Plus, that body is so compact and that tail and bill are so short. Broad-tails have longer bills and tails. I think you may be right! But, I am not an expert. However, I have seen both species before and look how pot-bellied this little one looks! These shots are wonderful by the way! Sorry about all the stress. I hope you things settle down for you soon!

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks for your help with the ID on these birds Kathie!

  12. Wally August 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Wow, that Ron guy sure had a good idea to stop and look for hummers! 🙂

    Can’t help with i.d. If I’m lucky enough to see one of these little jewels here in Florida I just automatically call it a Ruby-throated!

    I love the background produced by the greenery and pastel flowers – just perfect! We may not be able to improve on Nature, but a proficient photographer such as you sure can showcase her very best side!

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      LOL Wally!

      I loved seeing Ruby-throated in Florida. Occasionally they will make an appearance here in Utah.

      Thanks for your comment on these images, they were a blast to create.

  13. Jerry Liguori August 29, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Awesome shots Mia….lovely!

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      Thanks Jerry! Hope to see you again soon.

  14. Myer Bornstein August 29, 2013 at 10:24 am

    After looking in the Stokes Guide I also would go with the broad-winged Hummingbird The wings do not extend past the tail enough for a Calliope

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts on the hummingbird ID Myer, the females and juveniles are such a challenge.

  15. Merrill Ann Gonzales August 29, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Just stunning. It’s amazing to me that you can share such amazing photos in spite of all the technical things you are dealing with. Just dealing with computers can be daunting and take all the joy out of things. When I see photos like these I can see what gives you the endurance you need to get through. Nature can be spectacular and just experiencing it all the payoff.

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 3:53 pm

      Merrill, it has been crazy for me this month, I hope September is better technology wise! I’m on my old, old 2008 model pc right now while my new one is in the shop hopefully getting repaired.

      Nature soothes the technological mess ups out of me, thank goodness!

  16. patty chadwick August 29, 2013 at 9:38 am


  17. biobabbler August 29, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Oh, man, that BEE shot is FANTASTIC. And how delightful to see hummingbirds in such unusual postures. Is that bee plant a cleome? Anyhow, lovely set of shots. =)

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      biobabbler, the Rocky Mountain Bee Plant is a Cleome, I bet some of the ones we plant in our gardens are hybrids of this wildflower. Happy you love the Bee! Thank you.

  18. Beverly Everson August 29, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Absolutely fantastic shots, Mia!!!

  19. Neil August 29, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Mia: Hummingbirds are always tough but I’d lean more towards a Broad-tailed Hummingbird. It does appear as if the wings extend a bit beyond the tail, BUT the tail feather shots you have are distinctive. Calliope Hummers have almost no Rufous on their tails, while Broad-tails show rufous at the base of their three outer tail feathers. Also, the overall iridescent green on the back and lack of a white “collar” points more towards Broad-tailed. Hope that helps!

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      Thanks for your input on the ID Neil, I think that Rufus, Calliope and Broad-tailed are all in the area where I photographed these but because they are females and juveniles they all have me scratching my head!

  20. John Randall August 29, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Incredible Photos Mia !

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      Tanks John, the birds are incredible!

  21. Bob Bushell August 29, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Brilliant Hummingbirds, the ways that you have photographed them, you are a genius.

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Thank you Bob, you are so kind!

  22. Montanagirl August 29, 2013 at 6:57 am

    Super photos! The lighting, the colors, all of it – Just magnificent photos. The Hummers are gorgeous, and I really like that Bee shot. No help on I.D. though.

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Thanks so much Montanagirl!

  23. judy watson August 29, 2013 at 5:47 am

    Great photos!
    So question. Is my hummingbird a Calliope as well?
    There was a man there that day who kept saying that was Rufus and said it over and over and loud enough so we thought it was a Rufous. 🙂

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 3:22 pm


      I think there are Calliope, Broad-tailed and Rufous all in that one area but since they are all female or juveniles it can quite a task to ID them.

  24. Sonja Ross August 29, 2013 at 5:03 am

    What beautiful little birds, and good judgment in stopping there! The images are lovely. I am really looking forward to becoming acquainted with Hummingbirds. Good luck with your computer issues, Mia.

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 3:21 pm

      Thank you Sonja, hummingbirds are awesome!

      My pc is in the shop, hopefully they will have it all sorted soon.

  25. Dave Sparks August 29, 2013 at 3:49 am

    These are just awesome shots. Wow!

    • Mia McPherson August 29, 2013 at 4:45 am

      Thank you Dave, I was happy with the images I took!

Comments are closed.