Written for a general audience, with spectacular images for birders and nature enthusiasts at every level, Hummingbirds of Texas reveals the enormous appeal of this tiniest and shiniest of birds. The book opens with a look at the many manifestations of the human attraction to these flying jewels.
• The Hummingbird Roundup, a citizen-science project run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has recruited hundreds of people to feed hummingbirds and record their activities throughout the state.
• The Rockport–Fulton Hummer/Bird Celebration, one of several festivals dedicated to hummingbirds, draws thousands of people each fall to the Texas coast where birds gather in huge numbers before migrating south.
• Bird-loving landowners invite the public to enjoy hummingbirds that live and breed on their ranches.
• Tips make attracting hummingbirds to your own lawn or garden easy, such as what to plant in the ground or in pots and how to choose and take care of feeders.
The authors then showcase the nineteen different hummingbird species that have appeared in the region covered by the book. Magnificent color photographs and original artwork aid in identification and accompany descriptions, range maps, and abundance graphs for each species.
Allen's Hummingbird • Anna's Hummingbird • Berylline Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird • Blue-throated Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird • Broad-tailed Hummingbird • Buff-bellied
Hummingbird • Calliope Hummingbird • Costa's Hummingbird
Green-breasted Mango • Green Violet-ear • Lucifer Hummingbird
Magnificent Hummingbird • Plain-capped Starthroat • Ruby-throated
Hummingbird • Rufous Hummingbird • Violet-crowned Hummingbird
|Publisher:||Texas A&M University Press|
|Product dimensions:||8.10(w) x 9.70(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
CLIFFORD E. SHACKELFORD is the state-wide non-game ornithologist at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Nacogdoches, where he also hosts the radio show "Bird Calls" for NPR's Red River Radio. MADGE M. LINDSAY is the former executive director of Audubon Mississippi now living in Fort Davis, Texas. C. MARK KLYM, an information specialist at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department based in Bastrop, coordinates the Texas Hummingbird Roundup.
Read an Excerpt
Hummingbirds of Texas
With Their New Mexico and Arizona Ranges
By Clifford E. Shackelford, Madge M. Lindsay, C. Mark Klym, Sid Rucker, Shirley Rucker
Texas A&M University PressCopyright © 2005 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Manufactured in China by Everbest Printing Co. through Four Colour Imports
All rights reserved.
Humans and Hummingbirds
The tour of homes at Rockport's Hummer/Bird Celebration is very popular because willing residents open up their backyards and extend hospitality to visiting birders who come to view large congregations of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. This event showcases one of the best hummingbird spectacles in the United States.
To the degree that we come to understand other organisms, we will place greater value on them, and on ourselves. —Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia: The Human Bond with Other Species, 1984
It is little wonder that most people are fascinated by, some even in love with, hummingbirds. With more than 70 percent of the human body's sense receptors clustered in the eyes, watching hummingbirds is natural, especially by those eyes seeking novelty and diversity. One up-close look at a hummingbird's brilliant beauty causes some watchers to become hooked for life and forever dedicated to attracting these birds into their yards. Hummingbirds are a favorite for all birdwatchers, from the most seasoned avid birder to those who only feed and watch this one species group. It is the birds' predictable penchant to return to favorite feeding areas and gardens, year after year, that has caused humans over many decades to readily respond with feeders to lure them in.
Because of the popularity of hummingbird feeding, in 1994 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) encouraged hundreds of Texans to join in a citizen-science survey of gardens, backyards, and ranches across the state. The agency invited anyone who was currently feeding hummingbirds to become part of the Texas Hummingbird Roundup. Participants had to sign up with a small fee, identify their backyard hummingbirds, record the dates of their sightings, and call the TPWD if they had rare birds they could not identify. At the end of the year, they were asked to return their survey forms. The public responded enthusiastically with more than 1,220 citizens from well over half of Texas' 254 counties signing up the first year.
As the Roundup grew in popularity, more counties were surveyed and more eyes were on the birds. After only two years of citizen watching and survey responses, the TPWD staff had confirmed what many ornithologists had long suspected: Texas hosted more hummingbird species than any other U.S. state. They were also able to verify and sometimes expand distribution ranges for some species.
With citizens helping from Beaumont to Brownsville, Amarillo to El Paso, and Lajitas to Texarkana, the survey flourished. Through phone calls, postcards, and pictures, and with experts investigating rare and questionable reports, over the next five years a wealth of information was collected on this group of birds for the first time in Texas. Eighteen species were documented, and new county sightings were recorded across the state. Overwintering routines were noted. Rare bird sightings were compiled, and several new hummingbird spectacles were located and documented. Because of the survey, the Roundup team established that thousands of Texans had been feeding and enjoying hummingbirds for years. And through the Roundup, these citizens were learning more about their hummingbirds and about how to better attract and host them.
Right away it was obvious that participants had great feelings for these birds and wanted to share them, as warm, insightful letters and dutifully documented reports filled the TPWD mailbox starting with the first survey year. Overall, one of the survey's most compelling findings is a demonstration of great reverence, suggesting a strong emotional bond between hummingbird hosts and their tiny avian guests.
Some observers wrote detailed letters describing behavior; they sent along photos and videos of birds at feeders. Participants shared sad stories about hummingbird predators and foes; they submitted notes on rescues and about birds in torpor, as well as stories about their birds riding out spring and summer storms. During migration and in the breeding season, observational letters and phone calls keep Roundup staff busy.
I do believe most of my hummingbirds come back each year; even the one without the tail arrived on time. I hate to see them leave in the fall. It is like your children leaving for school. I haven't as many fighters this year; sometimes it is hard for the little ladies to eat. McClennan County, Texas, 1994
This was my first year to participate in the Roundup. I can honestly say it has truly been a labor of love. It has not only been fun, but I've also learned so much. Now my neighbors come to me with questions and are also enjoying these birds. Fort Bend County, Texas, 1995
It was apparent that participants enjoyed watching hummingbird behavior. Letters were sent describing birds bathing in water dripping from an air-conditioner or rolling on drops of mist or dew collected on leaves. Another told of a hummingbird skimming the surface of the water in the family swimming pool, and one reported watching a hummingbird sunning on a gravel path with its wings widespread. Some participants with keen eyes described nests in trees near their houses. Others wrote of some unusual places where nests were found. A photo sent to the Roundup taken in South Texas showed a hummingbird nesting on a clothesline right next to a clothespin.
My daughter had a hummingbird nest on a wind chime hanging on her porch. Two eggs laid. One hatched. She filmed the mother feeding the baby, but sadly missed when it fledged. Denton County, Texas, 1994
Hummingbird feeding observations were reported frequently in letters. And some people even tried feeding experiments.
They are flying back and forth and squeaking constantly in the summer months. I tried a couple of years ago to eliminate one of the feeders by not putting it out in March. But the little guard saw me at the kitchen sink and would hover at the window in front of me, then fly to the bracket where I had hung it the year before and perch on the bracket before doing the same thing again. I hung a feeder where he wanted it! Hays County, Texas, 1995
One observer noted for more than fifteen days in December a Black-chinned Hummingbird feeding at Turk's cap and firecracker fern plants. The participant hung a feeder close to the plants, but after three days of periodic observation noted never having witnessed the bird using the feeder.
At the end of September, we had a terrific storm at night. The next morning we overslept, and when I opened my bedroom window, it was full daylight and on a wire on the front porch where the feeders hang, I saw at least two dozen or more hummingbirds, looking for all the world like a row of sparrows on a telephone line! I leaped out of bed and ran to get their feeders. They were waiting for their breakfast, and I don't think I will ever forget the sight of all those belligerent hummingbirds sitting patiently waiting for what they knew should have already been waiting for them. Austin County, Texas, 1996
Participants were especially astute in watching out for predators, and some were quite protective of their birds. Several observed predators preying on hummingbirds. Most common were praying mantises and garden spiders ensnaring birds. One observer noted a praying mantis that had defeathered and eaten a male Black-chinned Hummingbird. Many observers reported rescuing birds from garden-spider webs and cleaning web pieces from birds so they could fly.
I have a feeder at my kitchen window, and she (a Black-chinned) would be there every morning waiting for me. She would talk to me when the feeder was low. One morning she was chattering more than usual and would fly up to the feeder, but would not feed. That morning she hovered longer than usual and was much more vocal. I went outside and found a large house spider that overnight had built a web on part of the feeder. [After I disposed of] the spider and web, Bandit returned to her normal chatter and would perch to drink from the feeder. I was really sorry to see her leave this fall, and I hope she can find her way back again next spring. Ector County, Texas, 1995
Contributors from Chambers County told of Loggerhead Shrikes preying on hummingbirds. The shrike would hide on the side of a feeder waiting for a bird to come in and feed. To fix the problem, they removed the perches from the back of the feeder so the shrike had no place to hide.
All these letters are inspiring, showing the great lengths to which hummingbird hosts go when watching out for their birds. Observing the birds' behavior and needs and responding with care and compassion are admirable traits of Roundup participants. But the letters that truly inspired Roundup staff were those that arrived with colorful photographs of the beautiful yards and gardens that participants were creating for their tiny guests. After all, this is one of the survey's objectives—to help Texans realize the benefits and pleasures of native backyard gardening and learn to host birds in a more natural way. There is nothing better than a native garden with all the elements of food, water, and cover to prepare dedicated watchers for next season's tiny travelers.
Since 1994, when the Texas Hummingbird Roundup began, more than four thousand volunteers have taken part in the survey. Although there are counties of Texas with no volunteers participating, observers have reported from all nine ecological regions of the state. Participation varies, but the average year has included more than three hundred completed and submitted surveys.
Survey return maps show that the Roundup began strong, and remains strong, in the heavily populated eastern half of the state. Harris County, which comprises metropolitan Houston, sent as many as fifty-three surveys to the program in a single year. Meanwhile, West Texas, particularly the extremely hummingbird-diverse regions west of the Pecos River, returned only thirty-three surveys for all eight (large) counties over the first five years of the program. Clearly, there is information missing in that region. To try to capture this possible missing information, TPWD has focused efforts of the Hummingbird Roundup in the West Texas area through the new Treasures of the Trans-Pecos program. Efforts to introduce educational and outreach programs are also focused on hummingbirds in this area. Orders for survey kits from the region are increasing, but it is hoped that an increase in returned surveys will soon follow.
This valuable information is stored in a database that allows TPWD to track trends in the data. The data are also made available to hummingbird researchers, especially graduate students, allowing them to know where a bird species might reliably be found.
At no other time in history have more people actively pursued wildlife and nature for pleasure and recreation. Nature tourism, ecotourism, and, if you are traveling to find birds, avitourism are among the top activities of the rapidly expanding travel and tourism industry according to the Travel Industry Association of America. State tourism agencies are watching these trends and marketing accordingly. In their efforts to predict which outdoor products to manufacture, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association and several federal agencies conduct a survey every six to eight years to look at national recreational trends. In 1996, the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (NSRE) showed birdwatching as the fastest-growing recreational pursuit in America.
Some of the nation's best-known birding destinations are also well known for hummingbirds. Southeastern Arizona is a popular destination for those birdwatchers who really enjoy seeing a variety of hummingbird species. Texas is also becoming a destination for hummingbird watchers and has now documented more species than any other state (including Arizona), as new discoveries in the Trans-Pecos have revealed a growing number of hummingbird species.
Treasures of the Trans-Pecos and the Hummingbird Frontier
The bird life of Texas is renowned worldwide and has been the subject of study by early naturalists, such as John James Audubon, who came to Texas in 1837, and twentieth-century ornithologists, such as Louis Agassiz Fuertes and George Miksch Sutton. The diverse topography and ecology of the state create a great variety of habitats—forests, coastal plains and wetlands, mountains, deserts, and prairies—bringing ornithologists and birders from around the globe to enjoy these rich natural landscapes.
The Texas Gulf Coast, the Rio Grande Valley, and Big Bend National Park are three of the state's top birding destinations. Recently, another area in the Trans-Pecos region, Fort Davis in the Davis Mountains, has emerged as the state's newest hummingbird hot spot. Jeff Davis County, population just over twenty-two hundred, is located less than 100 miles north of Big Bend National Park and within the migratory path of many western bird species that are normally found in or west of the Rocky Mountains.
New county breeding records, species documentation, and range documentation are all part of exciting, ongoing data-collection projects currently underway by local and state ornithologists. Most of the area's large private ranches have not been systematically surveyed for bird life, and such is the case in the Davis Mountains. But to date, sixteen species of hummingbirds have been recorded in the Davis Mountains, five or maybe six of which breed there.
The landscape in this area is part of an extensive mountain basin and rangeland system; almost all of it is privately held in large ranching units, which up until now have not been readily accessible for exploration. The Nature Conservancy of Texas has helped secure several contiguous large tracts in the hopes of furthering the ecological preservation of this region.
The Treasures of the Trans-Pecos program is designed to recruit more volunteers who have a hummingbird garden or feed hummingbirds west of the Pecos River in Texas. As more bird life is witnessed in the region, more species will be added to the records of these western counties. Especially noteworthy over the past years are new hummingbird records, including the Berylline Hummingbird, recorded first in August 1997 in Jeff Davis County at a private residence in the Davis Mountains Resort.
The impressive hummingbird diversity found in the Trans-Pecos, particularly in Jeff Davis County, has been little known until recently. In August 1995, a well-known bird tour company reported more than ten hummingbird species at one feeder in a two-hour visit. Hummingbirds documented include the White-eared Hummingbird (rare) at higher elevations, Magnificent Hummingbird, and Broad-tailed Hummingbird. The Lucifer Hummingbird, formerly known to occur in Texas only from Brewster and Presidio counties, is occasionally seen at Fort Davis feeders. Black-chinned Hummingbirds are the most common breeders at lower elevations. Rufous Hummingbirds become regular visitors starting each July, along with Anna's Hummingbirds and Calliope Hummingbirds.
It has been another enjoyable year of hummingbird watching. The fall was especially busy with more Ruby-throated hummingbirds than I have ever had. They were in such a constant abundance that my neighbors brought their chairs to be entertained. It was like watching a swarm of bees. Fort Bend County, Texas, 1995
When wildlife congregates into spectacular visible flocks or herds, wildlife watchers are usually not far behind. Texas is well known for its large concentrations of birds, butterflies, Mexican free-tailed bats, and more, and a lot of travelers come to see them. Spring and fall bird migrations are phenomenal, with great birding spectacles occurring throughout the state. Most notable are the migrations of warblers and shorebirds and the great congregations of waterfowl and raptors. But a wildlife spectacle in miniature has captured the fascination of many people who ordinarily would not consider themselves birdwatchers. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird delivers an economic punch to a community on the central Texas coast in an otherwise ordinarily slow tourist season and also brings pleasure and delight to thousands of people who show up to watch.
One of Texas' most amazing avian spectacles is the annual staging of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on the Coastal Bend of Texas near Rockport and Fulton. It is so impressive and unique that an annual festival was developed around the phenomenon in 1988, when the community noticed the annual occurrence of great numbers of birds and decided that their Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were worth showing off. Although not as readily visible as larger birds in migration, the Ruby-throated migration is just as spectacular in many ways, especially in the birds' great numbers.
Excerpted from Hummingbirds of Texas by Clifford E. Shackelford, Madge M. Lindsay, C. Mark Klym, Sid Rucker, Shirley Rucker. Copyright © 2005 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Manufactured in China by Everbest Printing Co. through Four Colour Imports. Excerpted by permission of Texas A&M University Press.
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Table of Contents
Foreword, by Greg W. Lasley,
Humans and Hummingbirds,
Hummingbird Discoveries and Destinations,
A Hummingbird Garden,
Photographing the Hummingbirds, by Sid and Shirley Rucker,
Hummingbirds of Texas with Their New Mexico and Arizona Ranges,