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Canyon Notes


June 2010

by George West

No place else in North America will you find more hummingbird glory than in Arizona. Of the 24 species document in the United States, 18 have been found in the Grand Canyon State. The Sky Islands of southeastern Arizona - the Catalina, Santa Rita, Huachuca, and Chiricahua Mountain Ranges regularly support 15 species of hummingbirds in summer. Otherwise the approximately 345 species of hummingbirds are concentrated in tropical forests of Central and South America with the greatest number closest to the equator.
Friends of Madera Canyon is now in its ninth year of monitoring hummingbirds in the Canyon through the Hummingbird Monitoring Network (HMN), a science based, project driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving habitats for hummingbirds. HMN has been monitoring at sites from British Columbia south into Mexico and from California into Texas since 2002. Its web site is: Only a few of the monitoring sites are open to the public, and Madera Canyon is one of them. Every other week a licensed hummingbird bander and volunteers work for five hours trapping, banding, measuring, and weighing hummingbirds at the Chuparosa Inn in the early morning.
Visitors are welcome to come and see the birds up close, take photographs, ask questions, and release a bird from their open hand. The 2010 schedule and the report of the 2009 season is on the web site: Select Birds and Birding and then click on Hummingbirds in the drop-down menu.
The most abundant hummingbird in Madera Canyon, and across most of Arizona is the Black-chinned Hummingbird. Others that are most often seen during summer are Broad-billed, Magnificent, and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. As fall approaches we see more migrating Anna’s, Rufous, Calliope, and occasionally Allen’s Hummingbirds. Other species rarely seen in summer include White-eared, Berylline, Violet-crowned, Blue-throated, Lucifer, Costa’s, and very rarely, Plain-capped Starthroat.
Two books that will help you identify the colorful males and drab females are “Hummingbirds of North America, the Photographic Guide” by Steve Howell, and “Hummingbirds of North America” by Sheri Williamson. Both are available at the Tucson Audubon Society shop or on line at Amazon.
A new book published this year by Rutgers University Press is “Do Hummingbirds Hum?” by George West and Carol Butler. West has processed more than 14,000 hummingbirds in Arizona, mostly in Miller and Madera Canyons. His book answers all the questions that volunteers get when processing hummingbirds, and it explains all aspects of hummingbird biology and life. It will help you to set up feeders in your garden and has advice on what plants attract hummingbirds.

Dr. West places a hummingbird on a visitor's open hand for release

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