Home ||  History ||  Officers ||  Join LOS ||  LA Birding Organizations
LA Checklist ||  LBRC ||  LOS News ||  LOS Sales ||  Meetings ||  Pelagic Trips
LA Birdline ||  Local Contacts ||  Online Birding Resources ||  Featured HotSpot

No. 188 BATON ROUGE, LANovember 1999

Newsletter of the Louisiana Ornithological Society

Table of Contents

Western Hummers, Winter Fun
List of Western Hummers
the Duke?
The Botanical Birder
Yard List Competition '99
November Pelagic Report
Alternative Pelagic Report
Hummer ID Article
Hummer Figure 1
Hummer Figure 2
Hummer Figure 3
Hummer Figure 4
Hummer Figure 5
LOS NEWS, page 2
LOS NEWS, page 3
Louisiana Birding Organizations
Gray Jay Study by LOS birder
LOS Sales
Saw-whets in LA?
Trying Too Hard!
2000 LOS Winter Meeting
Registration Form
LOS Officers
LOS Fall Meeting Report
Irruptive Species Project
Membership Form
LOS Homepage

Broad-tailed Hummingbird by Michael A. Seymour
by Nancy Newfield
When I first hung a hummingbird feeder in May 1973, I never envisioned the effect that simple action would have on my future and on the futures of so many other people. My goal at that time was just to see some hummingbirds up close. It never occurred to me that I would be able to attract any species other than our breeding Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris. And it never occurred to me that most of what I had learned about hummingbirds in Louisiana was wrong.
Initially, success of any kind was very elusive. The original feeder hung for almost a year without any hummers visiting. Hummingbirds do not nest in my section of Metairie. I didn't realize that the red-colored sugar water would spoil in a few days and that unless I kept the feeder clean and filled with fresh fluid, I would not get any customers. I also did not realize that I could attract hummers much more efficiently by providing them with natural nectar rather than the colored sugary syrup that most people used at that time.
The late Bob Raether showed me the way to plant Flowering Maple, Sultan's Turban, and Turk's Cap and the rewards they would bring. The rest is history, so to speak, and many LOS members know some of it. Although I had not expected any species other than the Ruby-throated, I was pleased to host a female Rufous in September 1976. And I was delighted by seven immature male Black-chinned that appeared by Christmas that year. Because these birds were considered rarities, birders flocked to see them.
The last edition of George H. Lowery's "Louisiana Birds," issued in 1974, listed only five hummingbird species for Louisiana. He designated Rufous Hummingbird Selasphorus rufus as an uncommon winter visitor. Eight records of Black-chinned Hummingbird Archilochus alexandri were detailed and he described it as "rare but regular." Buff-bellied Hummingbird Amazilia yucatanensis and Broad-tailed Hummingbird Selasphorus platycercus had only been recorded on a very few occasions.
Each winter after that, western species came to take up residence - a Broad-tailed and an Allen's in 1978! Allen's Hummingbird Selasphorus sasin had only been added to the Louisiana list in 1976. What fun!
We all still treasure our nesting season Ruby-throats, but the western species of the winter season have added a whole new dimension to hummingbirding in Louisiana. Hummingbirders here look forward to the winter season like children awaiting Christmas!
In 1979, I began banding wintering hummers as a means of obtaining documentation for the numbers and various species. Through the 1980s, numbers and species diversity grew modestly. By the end of 1989, we had added Anna's Hummingbird Calypte anna [1979] and Calliope Hummingbird Stellula calliope [1982]. During that period, I banded a number of Rufous and a smaller number of Black-chinned each winter, with a smattering of rarer species mixed in. And, I recorded a few returnees each year. Returnees showed us that many hummers are well able to survive the not-so-cold winter season in the southern part of the state.
The 1990-1991 winter season was marked by the addition of Broad-billed Hummingbird Cynanthus latirostris to the roster of Louisiana's hummingbirds. And, in November 1992, a male Blue-throated Hummingbird Lampornis clemenciae made a well-documented appearance in Baton Rouge. At that point, the number of species documented to have occurred in Louisiana was 10. Meanwhile the number of individuals being reported rose dramatically and Dave Patton qualified to band hummers in order to give better coverage to the southwestern part of the state.
Still, the proliferation of reports of wintering hummers has escalated beyond our ability to catch and band. It is difficult to determine whether the large number of reports of wintering hummers reflects an actual increase in the number of hummers or if the growing popularity of feeding and better communications produce a greater number of reports. However, the number banded each season and the diversity of species is remarkable. Many banded hummers are also returning to sites where they previously spent the winter, adding to the sheer number of birds.
Listed below are the totals of wintering hummers that Dave and I banded during the period July 1979 - July 1999:
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Blue-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird

The total is almost 1000-- not a huge number compared to the ones we see in summer-- but these hummers are the ones we used to be told were rare.
The winter season of 1999-2000 has gotten off to a grand start. On the computer listserv, HUMNET, Tom Sylvest has been giving an ongoing tally of the western hummers as they are reported. So far, he has listed more than 160 individuals of 7 species - and the season is still young! [See an updated report Ed.] The largest number of westerners appears between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with newcomers still showing up in January, February, and March.
Dave and I are ready for lots of winter fun, but the banding we do is not just for fun. The data we gather is useful in many ways. Already, substantial winter survivorship has been well established - 8 years in the case of a Buff-bellied in LaPlace. This is the longevity record for a little studied species. A study of weight gains and losses indicates that premigratory gains are sudden and dramatic. Interesting migratory movements during the winter period have also been discovered, including a previously undocumented west to east route. And, let's not forget that we are documenting the numbers and species diversity of Louisiana's wintering hummingbirds.
Today, with the recent summertime addition of Green Violet-ear, the list of hummingbird species for the state now stands at 11 species. If you are hosting hummers this winter, please call or e-mail Dave Patton [318-232-8410, wdpatton@bellsouth.net] or Nancy Newfield [504-835-7231, colibri@gs.verio.net]. Let us be a part of your winter hummer fun!
Nancy L. Newfield
Casa Colibri
Metairie, Louisiana USA
colibri@gs.verio.net "Hummer Notes"
Table of Contents

the Duke?
by John "johnboy" Sylvest
the Duke?
some people call me the space cowboy
some call me the gangsta o' love
in Abbeville they call me Maurice
what a jambalaya i cook wit dem dove

happy thanksgiving,
Reprinted from HUMNET-L, with permsission
Table of Contents

The Botanical Birder

Winterizing Your Yard For Winter Hummers
by Bill Fontenot

While no one really knows just why and how hummingbird species from western North America end up in our gardens each winter here along the Gulf Rim, the fact remains that they do find their way here - very possibly in increasing numbers as the years go by. Obviously, the first question that any home/garden owner who suddenly finds him/herself hosting a winter hummer has is, "What can I do to better accommodate this bird?" As with any other bird, or any other animal for that matter, hummingbirds need food, water, and cover. This article focuses on the "cover" component of the winter hummingbird habitat equation.
It is fortunate that most of the hummingbird species that settle into southeastern U.S. gardens each winter seem to tolerate periodic sub-freezing temperatures fairly well. This we know from reports by dozens of winter hummer hosts who have kept close watch over their birds throughout all sorts of weather conditions over the past few decades. Doubtless, one of the most important factors contributing to the long-term survival of hummingbirds that end up wintering here involves the availability of dependable, evergreen shelter. For those would-be winter hummer hosts who are considering the addition of evergreen cover, what follows is a discussion of plants that can potentially provide it here. For the sake of convenience, and in order to combine information regarding the ability of a particular plant species to provide a potential foraging substrate for hummers as well, plants have been roughly divided into 3 categories based on their winter blooming habits (or lack thereof): Non-Bloomers, "Insect" Bloomers, and "Nectar" Bloomers.
Non-Bloomers For those with the geography (ca. 75 miles either side of Interstate-10) and the space (50'X50' minimum), coast live oak (Quercus virginiana) is a veritable winter bastion for hummers, the small flying insects that they hunt, as well as winter warblers, Merlin, and other sundry birds. The combination of foliage size, stiffness, and especially density seems perfectly designed for small bird roosting, perching, and foraging. On a smaller scale (ca. 15'X15'), consider exotic ornamentals such as "banana magnolia" (Michella figo; aka "banana shrub"), and sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans; aka "tea olive"), or natives such as wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera) and Florida leucothoe (Agarista populifolia). Besides offering a safe haven for winter hummers, evergreen hollies also offer a late-winter food source for many songbirds. In terms of proper foliage density, best holly bets include natives such as 'Savannah' (Ilex opaca x cassine), sarvis (I. amelanchier), yaupon (I. vomitoria; not the dwarf form), and dahoon (I. cassine); as well as exotic hybrids such as 'Burford' (I. x cornuta ), 'Foster' (I. x attenuata), the I. latifolia hybrids ('Nellie Stevens' etc.), and the I. aquifolia hybrids. Other possibilities for which I have no experience, but which would seemingly offer excellent winter cover include the cedars (such as eastern red and Atlantic white, in our area), "American" arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), and yews (particularly Japanese yew, Podocarpus macrophyllus).
To the possible disgust of many, I'd be remiss in failing to mention the most effective non-blooming evergreen scenarios: exotic hedges and bamboo colonies. These 2 groups constitute the warmest and most safe refugia for hummers as well as many other winter bird species. Exotic hedge materials include the privets (Ligustrum spp.), the Photinias, and the Oriental viburnums. While I would not recommend the outright planting of such things (there are far better/more ecologically correct native species for hedge use; see previous paragraph for suggestions), I would suggest that homeowners who already possess these hedges consider keeping them, for they provide wonderful harbors for birds, particularly within urban and suburban settings, where ecological integrity has already been so severely compromised. By the same token, exotic and native bamboos offer outstanding cover for all manner of avian life. Careful planning should accompany any effort to utilize these rambunctious garden subjects. LSU ornithologist Donna Dittmann (ddittma@unixl.sncc.lsu.edu) has been evaluating various bamboo species/cultivars in her Iberville parish garden, and can provide a decent "starting point" for anyone considering the use of bamboo plantings in their wildlife garden. In turn, Donna has suggested that serious bamboo inquiries should be directed to Mahler Spense, owner of a bamboo nursery in Mt. Hermon, LA.
"Insect" Bloomers Included within this group are plants that offer winter blooms which are not especially good nectar sources for hummers, but are indeed attractive to various species of small flying insects, which hummers need as much as they do nectar. Moreover, plants which produce substantially large winter blooms may act as beacons in visually attracting wandering hummers over quite a range of flight altitudes. Here within horticultural zones 8-9, this list is notably short. Nevertheless, it contains what I feel may be the most important winter hummer plant group - the camellias. Remember: the plant groups that we are discussing in this article are those which offer the highest degree of freeze and post-freeze assistance to winter hummingbirds. Thus, we can forget all about those fancy, nectar-rich Salvia, Abutilon, Cuphea, and Malvaviscus species!
First to consider is the Sasanqua camellia group - a horticultural complex of late fall to early winter-blooming evergreen plants which have been derived from a single oriental camellia species. The Sasanqua camellias are tall (8-20') plants that offer substantial pale to "hot" pink blooms from late October through December. They can be used as single specimens, or (better for winter hummers) can be combined into large hedges in order to maximize foliage density. While we are not sure of what kind(s) of small flying insect(s) are attracted to Sasanqua camellia blooms, it has become obvious to those of us who have spent many hours studying local winter hummers that these birds spend far too much time poking around the nectar-poor flowers to be a matter of mere coincidence - particularly in light of the fact that copious sources of fresh nectar (in the form of artificial nectar feeders) often lay within feet, if not inches of these birds. Nay, the hummingbird doth not live by nectar alone!
Unlike the Sasanquas, "Japanese" camellias (Camellia japonica) are short, squat plants (ca. 8'X7'), bloom later (on average, December through February) and possess much larger leaves. Of course, these camellias are bred especially for their gorgeous flowers, which are similar in appearance to antique roses. Like the Sasanquas, Japanese camellias are bug-attractors; and like Sasanquas, are at their hummer-sheltering best when planted in close groups. Here in Lafayette, hummer-bander Dave Patton's Grandmother's yard is basically a Japanese camellia display garden. Each winter, she normally hosts 5-6 hummers. Dave has spent many hours studying these birds, and reports that they almost always use the camellias for protection during cold, wet winter days. He also suspects that they regularly roost in these plants.
Lastly, I've recently heard about a new series of Japanese azalea cultivars referred to as the 'Encore' series. Members of this evergreen group are said to repeat bloom well into the winter months down here in horticultural zones 8b-9. So this would represent yet another potential plant group to consider in this category.
"Nectar" Bloomers As with the winter "insect" bloomers, the winter "nectar" bloomer list is short. In fact, once temperatures have dropped below freezing, I can think of only 2 dependable plant species whose blooms are able to consistently produce nectar in quantities sufficient for hummer use. The first is trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens; aka "coral honeysuckle"), a mannerly woody vine native to much of the southeastern U.S. Though this species does not natively occur south of I-10 in Louisiana, it does grow quite nicely in cultivated gardens throughout the coastal zone. As the species name implies, it is evergreen. It blooms mostly in spring and fall, and quite often well into December. It generally takes a break in January, and commences heavy blooming at this latitude in February. Trained onto a trellis, it will grow to a well-behaved 12'. The nominate species produces coral-red blooms; and an apricot-yellow/orange blooming genetic sport (Lonicera sempervirens 'Sulphurea') is also available.
Beyond trumpet honeysuckle, the only other dependable winter nectar garden plant source for hummers is winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima; aka "bush honeysuckle"), a Chinese native that has long been used as a garden ornamental throughout the southeastern U.S. Winter honeysuckle is actually an evergreen shrub which grows to a dense, globular form, varying in size from 5-8' in height and width. The kicker is that winter honeysuckle loads up with small, white, fragrant, nectar-rich blooms from November through March. During the last real cold snap (February '96) here, where we experienced 60+ straight hours of sub-freezing temperatures - punctuated by an absolute low of 16F here in south-central Louisiana - both winter and trumpet honeysuckle bloomed away without interruption at our place. And wonder of wonders, we actually had an adult female Rufous hummer around to enjoy it all!
Table of Contents

1999 Louisiana Yard List Competition Heats Up!
Time is almost up folks! Have you been remembering to LOOK WAY UP for flyovers? Ahh yes. The competition is fierce in Louisiana! There is a rumor that someone who shall remain nameless, but who blew everyone out of the water in 1991, and who has announced that he is NOT entering the contest this year, has more than 175 species for the year! And this in spite of a lot of moaning about drought and weird weather and what not!
In 1991, we had backyard year lists submitted by 27 LA. members. Cumulative results: 223 total LA bird species reported, including 7 herons/egrets, 35(!) warblers, 7 hummingbirds (with a Calliope observed, but for some wacky reason, not reported!), 7 vireos (including Bell's), 5 doves, and 15 raptors. 5 yards reported wood stork, 5 with bald eagle, 12 w/cooper's hawk, 8 w/merlin, and 4 w/peregrine falcon! considering all of the increased bird skill/knowledge, wildlife landscaping, and birders in LA today, I wonder what kind of results we will muster for 1999? -- with many apologies to Bill Fontenot
Wrap it up and send me your yard lists in January; I'll put out a call on LABIRDS to remind everyone. You can send them by email to lcfoil@attglobal.net I can handle most PC compatible attachments, but if you're a MAC nut, then you'll just have to convert the file first! If you're attachment disabled, then you can send it in email text. If you're like COMPUTERLESS JOE, then you can use snail mail. My address is at the end of the newsletter. Don't be shy if you're like moi and have fewer than 100 species. Just send in your excuses! Anyhow, there will be as many categories of winners as I can think of. -- Carol Foil
Table of Contents

Pelagic Report - 6 November 1999
With a full compliment of participants, we actually left the dock almost exactly at 6 AM and entered the Gulf through Belle Pass at 6:45 AM. Along the boat/ship channels we were treated to our only other mammals of the day, a coyote standing at the edge of the water along the back ridge, and several Bottle-nosed Dolphins, as well as several flocks of Roseate Spoonbills. We headed SE toward Sackett Bank, which lies SW of the delta near the edge of the Mississippi Canyon. A light to moderate NE wind had us starting off in 3 ft. seas. Winds and seas gradually increased as we proceeded toward Sackett, and the "upchuck express" was fully realized within the first 1-2 hours as seas built to 4-5 ft. and then to sustained 6 footers (with occasional 7-8 footers?). Obviously, in such conditions, it quickly became apparent that there was no chance of getting far offshore into deep water.
Shivering, soaking-wet, bow-riding teenagers, and even many seasoned pelagic vets, can only last so long in such conditions (we have extensive video for future blackmail purposes- hey, you Mississippi high-schoolers were real troopers, and if you need a little help with that grade in the zoology course, well boy do I have some footage of Mr. Hackman....).
Seriously, though I'll spare you the details of what happens when you head for the rail on the windy side of the boat. Anyway, there wasn't much of entertainment value "bird-wise" en route to Sackett Bank, except for the "possible phalaropes" (which could have been Sanderlings), a possible sulid or two, the occasional tern, including a Sandwich or two and a few Common Terns, several Barn Swallows headed NE, a Great Blue Heron headed south, a small flock of ducks (possibly scaup), and a Peregrine Falcon. Spray and motion made it extremely difficult to scan the horizon.
At Sackett Bank we laid the GREAT - GREAT - GREAT - GREAT - GREAT - GREAT -GREAT - GREAT - GREAT.........GREATEST GRANDMOTHER OF ALL CHUM SLICKS ever seen on the ocean. A mile long at least. And we waited and waited and waited, and nothing showed. Soooo, (yeah, you know what we did) - another chum slick parallel to the first one. This had to set some kind of a new record of unsurpassed double-wide chummage. While we allowed the slicks to thoroughly fester, we cruised to a nearby rig to check for boobies on the mooring buoy. Nothing. Heading back to the slick, a jaeger sp. sped past in the opposite direction, and then we could see a couple of other seabirds arcing over the distant horizon, so we turned and gave chase for a while until we saw - NOTHING. Back at the slick, NOTHING. This must have also been some sort of record for fewest birds (zero) at the best chum slick of all time.
From Sackett we cruised roughly SW with the swells (for a much-needed pause from the violent corkscrewing that we had been enduring) and saw a frigatebird, several Common Terns, and a Herring Gull, no doubt all heading toward our Sackett slick, which by now was probably covered with rafts of albatrosses, shearwaters, Pterodromas, and skuas. Oh well. On to the edge of the MS Cyn., where we stumbled onto an Audubon's Shearwater. This bird allowed us to get fairly close several times during a slow pursuit of 2-3 miles, as it danced on the waves storm-petrel style into the wind, and even dove below the surface a couple of times. Well, having found an actual pelagic bird, you know what was going through our minds: we could set another new chum-slick record!. So, while we followed the shearwater, we created a 2+ mile long slick that no seabird would be able to resist: mashed pogeys mixed with pogey oil, vegetable oil, bacon grease, lard, chicken drippings, and popcorn (and the passengers were making their own contributions...). It makes me queasy just thinking about it.
Result? Obviously, the Audubon's Shearwater was the ONLY seabird within smelling distance, and even it ignored the slick.
By now it was about 2 PM, so we set course for home. Pretty soon, a shout went up from the stern as a beautiful adult Pomarine Jaeger materialized over the wake. This bird put on a great show as we teased it with luscious pogeys that promptly sank before they could be plucked from the water. After about 20 pogeys, the bird wised-up, pulled ahead, and gradually disappeared. Also seen en route back to port were another jaeger sp. and a sulid sp. Fortunately, the seas diminished somewhat as we got closer to Fourchon.
Heading back up the channel, we were treated to a dusk aggregation of 26 N. Harriers to finish off the day.
Thanks to everyone on the boat for being such a great and positive group under such daunting circumstances. Special thanks to Dan Purrington and his GPS unit, and to Ken Hackman for literally filling the boat with energetic teenagers (next year, we're thinking a December trip would be nice....Ken should have a new group of unsuspecting students by then).
-- Steve "at least we saw more birds than on Muth's trip" Cardiff & Donna Dittmann
[Editor's note: Dan Purrington has the trip log posted at www.tulane.edu/~danny/log6.html]
Table of ContentsLOS NEWS, Page 2
Home ||  History ||  Officers ||  Join LOS ||  LA Birding Organizations
LA Checklist ||  LBRC ||  LOS News ||  LOS Sales ||  Meetings ||  Pelagic Trips
LA Birdline ||  Local Contacts ||  Online Birding Resources ||  Featured HotSpot

LOS News Editor: Carol Foil, 1180 Stanford Ave, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
(h & fax) 225.387.0368; (w) 225.346.3119;

posted 08December1999