Fledgling Male Costa’s Hummingbird

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Quite often I’ll take a little tour around our backyard with camera in hand.  My purpose is to look for insects and other invertebrates.  I’ve found and photographed quite a few of them over the years just by poking around in our yard.

Yesterday I was doing that when another opportunity presented itself.  Quite unexpectedly a hummingbird flew up to me, landed on a plant about four feet away from where I was standing, and quietly watched me.  It cocked its head in a number of attitudes as it checked me out.  I thought “why not?” and photographed it, even though my camera and flash were set up for close-up photography and not for birds or other wildlife at even a moderate distance.  I guessed at the settings, plugged them in, and fired away.  The little bird was unfazed, even though I was triggering my flash every couple of seconds.  It continued to watch me — obviously with great curiosity — for nearly a minute before flying away.

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I was very pleased with the images I’d made.  But, then came the hard part.  What species is this bird?  We have several warm weather hummingbird visitors in our neighborhood, including Costa’s, Anna’s, and Black-chinned Hummingbirds.  The males are pretty distinctive looking but the females of each species resemble each other.  This bird’s plumage at first suggested to me that it was a female.  However, when I consulted my guides, the bird’s plumage did not exactly resemble any females of the species that frequent our community.  So, what was it?

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My friend Sam Angevine suggested an answer and I believe he may be right.  It’s likely that this is a fledgling male Costa’s Hummingbird, a very young individual, who may have been on his own for only a few weeks or months.  Adult male Costa’s have exaggerated “gorgets,” consisting of very dark feathers that extend down their necks and project outwards.  This bird lacks a gorget but there are at least a couple of feathers on his neck that suggest the possibility of one growing in eventually.

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Hummingbirds are among the most fearless of all birds.  I’ve had the experience on multiple occasions of an adult hummingbird flying within a few feet of me or even closer in order to check me out.  This little bird may have combined the fearlessness of his species with the foolhardiness of youth in order to get a really close look at that odd looking fellow with the flashing light.

Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 mm f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon Speedlite, M setting, ISO 400, f16 @ 1/160.

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