Bird Observer: The Birding Journal for New England

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

October 2017

Vol. 45, No. 5

Vagrancy of Selasphorus and Other Western Hummingbirds to New England

Sean M. Williams and Andrew C. Vitz


Rufous Hummingbird. Photograph by Alan Schmierer.

Hummingbirds are treasured by birders and casual nature enthusiasts as living avian gems. Many New Englanders construct their gardens around nectar-rich plants and hummingbird feeders explicitly to attract and observe hummingbirds. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is the only breeding species of hummingbird in New England and eastern North America, but it is not the only species that regularly occurs in our region.

On December 18, 1909, Mr. Edward Hyer, a resident of Charleston, South Carolina, noticed a hummingbird in his yard. The rarity of a hummingbird in the winter immediately struck Hyer, who collected the specimen for preservation at the Charleston Museum. The hummingbird was originally identified as a Ruby-throated Hummingbird until, 19 years later, ornithologists attending the 1928 annual conference of the American Ornithologists’ Union were scrutinizing specimens (Sprunt 1929). They came across the specimen deposited by Mr. Hyer and, to their shock, re-identified it as a Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). At the time, that Rufous Hummingbird represented the only hummingbird other than Ruby-throated Hummingbird to occur east of the Mississippi River.

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