Naturalist Newsletter of November 5, 2007
issued from Yerba Buena Clinic just outside
Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 1740 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 17° 11' 27"N, LONG. -92° 53' 35"W
Wednesday I took a walk between downpours, when the rain had diminished to just a heavy fog-drizzle. I went to a weedy spot where I knew a large population of violet-blossomed Salvias was flowering, for among those Salvias there's always a bright commotion of hummingbirds. Hummingbirds just love Salvias. You can see rain-soaked spikes of Salvia flowers at the right.
Who knows which Salvia species this is? Bailey's Manual of Cultivated Plants says that around 700 species exist, among them being annuals, biennials, subshrubs and shrubs, with flowers coming in all colors, though rarely yellow. I knew my plants were Salvias because their flowers bore only two stamens in the unique configuration shown on my pollination page at http://www.backyardnature.net/fl_polln.htm.
Even in that day's chilly, dingy fog-drizzle the patch of Salvias was ebullient with hummingbirds. The two main species were eastern North America's overwintering Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and our own Azure-crowned Hummingbirds, which are endemic to foothills and highlands of east-central Mexico to Nicaragua. Every now and then a gigantic -- relatively speaking -- Magnificent Hummingbird would buzz through, too. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are described as 3.5 inches long while these Magnificents are all of 5 inches.
Overwintering Ruby-throats are identified here in their winter plumages by their short, straight bills, all- white breasts, greenish tops, tails with white-tipped outer feathers (outer rectrices) and a single white spot behind each eye (a post-ocular spot). Ruby-throats behave in a generally subdued manner, maybe like you'd expect of someone who's just flown hundreds of miles from the north and has a whole winter ahead of nothing but eating and staying alive.
The Azure-crowneds and Magnificents, however, zipped about with as much energy and chattering sassiness as Ruby-throats exhibit during their northern summers around nectar feeders.
You can see an Azure-crowned Hummingbird at http://www.tsuru-bird.net/hummers/hummingbird_violet-crowned_m_1a.jpg.
You can see a big Magnificent Hummingbird at http://www.naturescapes.net/022004/jb0204.htm.