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Reprise 5: New Hummingbird Species Discovered in Los Angeles County!

April 13, 2020

Editor’s Note: Entry number five in our tenth anniversary golden oldie replay series was originally posted 4-1-11 and is fourth in overall popularity. It was the second installment in our SMBAS Monograph Series – Spring Quarter.

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Astounding as it may seem, a new species of hummingbird has been discovered in the foothills of the southern slope of the San Gabriel Mountains. As yet, the only known location is near an industrial-residential section in the small town of Monrovia, where they have been filmed performing territorial flight displays.

Tentatively classified as a member of genus Calypte, scientists assume they’ve previously been mistaken for their congener, the locally common and resident Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna, although they bear only a superficial resemblance. DNA samples will presumably be taken. Nucleotide base pair analysis should reveal the bird’s closest affinities. Until results are released, final taxonomic classification cannot be ascertained with certainty.

Pending such definitive analysis, the bird is currently referred to as Calypte timconverensis, after the local resident who first saw it hovering outside his kitchen window next to a hummingbird feeder.  “I like to watch them in the morning while I have a cup of coffee,” he said. “I was working on my third cuppa Joe when I noticed this one hanging there, just the other side of the glass, like it was watching me. It was kind of spooky!  I went over to the window to get a better look and it just hovered there, looking right back at me. I walked back and forth a couple of times and darned if it didn’t follow along, watching me the whole time!  Its eyes were kind of funny, like they were glass or something.  I could see right away it wasn’t one of your typical hummers.  I get mostly Anna’s and Allen’s here of course, and the occasional Rufous in springtime.”

He continues. “It had this big red bill like the Broad-billed which lives over in Arizona, according to my bird book, but beyond that,  it sure didn’t look like the picture in the book.  Then there’s this tiny little gorget, sort of like a female Anna’s, but it’s just a little round spot. It was all pale underneath, so I figured it wasn’t an adult male, but it sure had me flummoxed.  I called a local birder friend of mine, and he came and looked at it and got all excited and waving his arms around and called someone else and he came over and took a few pictures and the next thing I knew, people were tromping all over my yard with mist nets and who-knows-what.  They wiped out my peonies.”

“It’s really the friendliest little thing.  I’ve actually gotten it to land on my hand (see picture below) on that weird tail, after it visits the feeder. Its feet aren’t much to see, that’s for sure.”

The friendly and confiding nature of the Four-wired Hummingbird is demonstrated as it rests in the discoverer’s palm after feeding. (AVInc photo)

The tail – certainly one of its strangest characteristics – is the source for its probable English name, Four-wired Hummingbird. [Bird eventually received the name Nano Hummingbird. – Ed.] Despite the juvenile appearance of the pale plumage, at least one adult male was filmed in his courting/territorial display.  Similar to the “J-shaped” flight of the Anna’s, it rises straight up to approximately 75 ft. above the ground.  But – unlike the rapid descent and tail snap of the Anna’s – he then slowly descends and hovers directly in front of his potential mate (or rival).

For a brief film of the mating/territorial display flight, go here.  As no female or encroaching male was sighted, it is unknown which form of display flight this is. [This film incorporates the original film. -Ed.]

Actual mating has not yet been observed; nor have nests been found.  Population size is unknown, as no more than two have ever been seen at any one time.  The extent of their range also is unknown as they have never been recorded outside the immediate area of discovery.

Local civic authorities are greatly excited by this unexpected fame.  Discussions are underway to make it the official City Bird and put it onto the Great Seal of the City of Monrovia.

The discoverer – a garage-workshop tinkerer – has requested that his name and address be withheld, as he wishes not to be overwhelmed by battalions of birders battling it out with tripods while trying to spot the bird.  “I’m putting the finishing touches on my perpetual motion machine,” he states confidently, “and it’s going to revolutionize the pencil-sharpening industry just as soon as I can find some funding.”

Best of luck to any birder who goes chasing the bird, and stay off the peonies!

If you found this article plausible, you may be interested in the other monographs in our annual series:
2010:   The Western Roof Owl:  Bird of Mystery
2012:   Canyonlands Roadrunner Captured on Film
2013:   Birders Take Their Lumps with their Splits
[Chuck Almdale]

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