A female Ruby-throat showed up in the yard, and 10 minutes later, another. Was she the same bird?
These captures were from over 100 feet away, and although I could tell they were both females with the bare eye, I wanted to capture on camera so I could analyze the finer details. Females don't often give us great opportunities because they've got one thing in mind, and to quote Josh Wilson, "get in, get out, nobody gets hurt". Females avoid the confrontation because their dependability is crucial to the survival of the young that await them. They simply get a drink and get back to the nest. In this sense 3 birds depend on the actions of one bird. She has to be ninja-like to avoid being seen and avoid dangers.
With the multiple feeders hung around my garden, the females will typically choose those furthest from the house or well protected.
So here we have two different female photos. Are they the same female? I've written about this in my book in extensive detail, but I'll condense it to this - physical appearance, habits and patterns. Although these birds were created very similar in appearance, there is oftentimes enough to differentiate between.
Physical appearance - from the distance you can see that one female has a slightly darker gray band(often referred to as a nest band) than the other. The overall color of the breast feathers is also different, one a little more gray than the other.
Habits - These are the quirky things that makes each bird unique in personality. Many of these quirky things in their behavior were formed by situations or dangers they've encountered. I've seen some females feed almost as quickly as the movement of the head of a woodpecker, and this habit remains the same every time she shows up in my yard. Watch for uniqueness in behavior. Even take a look at the the position of the feeding on each bird. One sits on the side of the perch and angle feeds, while the other sits more traditionally. If you notice this repeatedly from the angle feeder, you will identify that female more consistently. They develop habits just like we do, and eventually that becomes this birds MO.
Pattern - just like animals follow the same trails, so do hummingbirds follow the same Air Trails, especially the females during nesting season. They are creatures of habits and patterns. They will continue the same pattern so long as they're undisturbed. If they incur issues or dangers along a certain flight pattern, it's only then that they'll deviate from that pattern. Watch the direction they come into the yard, and watch the direction they leave. You will be amazed of the consistency at how they leave. She may dip from the feeder and hug the ground like a guided missile out of the garden, or she may have a trail leading up directly through the branches of a particular tree.
These are a few of the ways you can identify different birds and to predict your population. Watch for the finer details, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how many different birds are visiting your garden.
Two different female Ruby-throat hummingbirds, N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. June 13, 2019.
Author of Jewel of the North. Please post your comments and questions.