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Re: Allen's Hummingbird in Tilden Nature Area, Berkeley Hills
Mon, 12 Jan 2004 10:48:11 PST
From: Phil Gordon

Greetings Rusty and Derek,

I agree 11 January seems early for Allen's Hummingbird. Although I don't have direct access to a comprehensive, historical, Alameda County arrival/departure list (no doubt several exist), I see that Ken Burton's Marin County Audubon List shows Arrival for Allen's Hummingbird as "Early February", but eNature shows an undocumented range of Spring Migration Arrival for Allen's Hummingbird as 16 January to 15 March for Northwest and Northern California.

On our recent Christmas Bird Count for Hayward-Fremont (See report, 26 December 2003) Neil Kernes again found 2 Selasphorus sp. on 21 December 2003. These are assumed to be wintering hummers, and it is well known that of many such, those caught and described have always been Allen's Hummingbirds. Migrants north were reported arriving in San Diego Co. in January by Grinnell & Miller (Distribution of the Birds of California, 1944). No Rufous Hummingbirds have been found wintering here as yet, arriving 1 February to 15 March (eNature) or Early March (Ken Burton). Thus, your bird on 11 January could have been a winterer or a 5-day-early migrant, at least.

I did not see a description that included the gender status of this bird. I would suppose it was a male, with such a positive identification claim.

Best of success to your astute birding,
Phil E. Gordon
Hayward, Alameda County

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Re: Great Horned Owl vs Long-eared Owl
Mon, 12 Jan 2004 10:59:50 -0800
From: Les Chibana

Joseph Morlan wrote:

I wish I could judge size that accurately. Also the facial disk on the Long-eared Owl and Great Horned Owl seem to vary in color to some extent.

I looked at my small collection of Great Horned Owl and Long-eared Owl slides (n=6 and n=3 individuals, respectively) and have to agree that even in this small sampling, the facial disk color is variable, tan to orange, for both species.

If it was easy to determine the size of lone birds, this would not be a problem. But it's not, and therefore, it is, respectively. (Interestingly, to me, at least, the word "lone", as in LONE, looks just like "Ione", as in "IONE SEWAGE PONDS", which happens to have another difficult to ID solo bird, an immature swan....)

Anybody want to guess which one this is?

Joe's challenge is what prompted me to look at my slides of these species. Before I consulted them, I didn't have a clue of what his bird was. After referring to them, I first thought that it looked like a Great Horned Owl because of the apparently bulky "shoulders". But then I saw an identification clue that I think makes this a Long-eared Owl. It's perched in a tamarisk, probably at the Mercy Hot Springs. And it's probably the same bird that I photographed last year or the year before. So much for discerning this identification by the bird's own structure and plumage....

Nice zygodactylic toe arrangement.

Les Chibana, Palo Alto

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Re: Allen's Hummingbird in Tilden Nature Area, Berkeley Hills
Mon, 12 Jan 2004 11:03:25 -0800
From: Rusty Scalf

Phil Gordon wrote:

... again found 2 Selasphorus sp. on 21 December 2003. These are assumed to be wintering hummers, and it is well known that of many such, those caught and described have always been Allen's Hummingbirds.

So I'm wrong then. I was under the impression that wintering Selasphorus were most likely Rufous Hummingbirds.

Rusty Scalf

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Re: Great Horned Owl versus Long-eared Owl
Mon, 12 Jan 2004 12:40:01 -0800 (PST)
From: David Armstrong

On the Oakland Christmas Bird Count my team found and identified a Long-Eared Owl in Orinda. Reading this thread and looking at the ensuing discussion caused me to question the identification of Long-eared Owl. We had used a variety of characteristics to make the call. Size: certainly subjective. Structure: our bird was more slender than any Great Horned Owl I have seen. Tawny-colored facial disks: happens on Great Horned Owls as well (however I read that this is more common in the East). Long, floppy ears: that was what caused the confusion with the Livermore bird. Our bird had its back to us but swiveled its head to look in our direction - we never saw its front to see if it had a barred or cross-shaped pattern. However one detail that we thought was particularly telling was the position of the ears on the head. This bird's ears were close set - i.e. they stuck up from the middle of the head, not the edge as on great horned. In reviewing the field guides again as well as various photos, this pattern seems to be confirmed. I also feel that the Long-eared Owl has a unique facial "expression" but this of course is subjective as well.

Would appreciate feedback on whether others have observed the same thing and agree or disagree.

David Armstrong

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Early Selasphorus hummingbird arrivals
Mon, 12 Jan 2004 13:13:06 -0800
From: Larry Tunstall

I am posting the following message to the list for Steve Glover:

Date: Mon, 12 Jan 2004 11:21:36 PST

Hi all,

Just thought I would toss in what I know (or think I know) about Rufous/Allen's Hummingbirds in January. It is a tough question and possibly we can't answer the question completely but I think a rough outline has already been worked out.

First of all, It is my understanding (though I don't remember the source) that all specimens of Rufous/Allen's Hummingbirds from Northern California have proven to be Rufous Hummingbirds. So birds that are known to have wintered are at least far more then likely to be Rufous Hummingbirds.
These birds noted at Tilden Nature Area are not wintering birds. Nobody who participated in the Christmas Bird Count or the hordes that have viewed the Yellow-billed Sapsucker have reported any Rufous/Allen's Hummingbirds. The date, though seemingly early, is about the right date for our earliest returnees. There are many records in the North American Birds notebooks of first arrival Allen's Hummingbirds from around 6 or 7 January or so. Many of these birds are displaying, making the identification more certain.

This is complicated by early arriving Rufous Hummingbirds. It is my impression that Rufous Hummingbirds can also arrive in January but that this occurs only rarely. The fact that the Tilden birds have arrived before mid-January at a known breeding site (where they are common) suggests to me that these are probably recently arrived birds that will breed at this site. If they were displaying like Allen's Hummingbirds then the question becomes even easier.

Hope this makes some sense!

Steve Glover

Posted to EBB by Larry Tunstall

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Re: Great Horned Owl versus Long-eared Owl
Mon, 12 Jan 2004 14:19:02 -0800 (PST)
From: Peter Diegutis

Good Afternoon

I was with David for the Oakland Christmas Bird Count wherein we notched up a Long-eared Owl. While I'm most certainly the least-skilled "technician" in the group, I feel confident that the bird we saw was a Long-eared Owl rather than a Great Horned Owl. I have some experience with Great Horned Owls and the putative Long-eared Owl was very unlike any Great Horned Owl I'd seen before.

David mentions a number of features we used in our identification. All I'll add (as emphasis) is that the ears in particular, were most noticeable to me. We got a good, close look at the bird in reasonable light through a good scope. As we admired it at our leisure, someone used the term "goofy" to describe this bird's ears, and I thought it very apt. They were much closer together than any I have seen on a Great Horned Owl, and much longer. Great Horned Owl ears seem to start from a broad base; Long-eared Owl ears seem almost leaf-like, with a narrow stem.

I have found two photos on the web that demonstrate (for me) the differences I remember.

Long-eared Owl -
Double click on the image at bottom right. I feel confident that this is the bird we saw.

Great Horned Owl -
The image at top right shows only one of a number of postures that the bird can adopt. So, I include this only for your interest.

The New Year certainly seems to have started with a number of controversies.

Have a nice day.


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