Hybrid hummingbird, Ash Canyon, AZ - 3 Aug 2010

UPDATE 9/8/10: It seems certain that this bird is indeed a COSTA'S x LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD hybrid, apparently the first of its kind recorded.

ORIGINAL POST: Ash Canyon, in the Huachuca Mtns of southeast Arizona, has been a hotbed of hybrid hummers this year. Reported hybrid combos have been "Lucifer x Anna's" and "Costa's x Anna's". On my first late summer trip to the southwest, I was pleased to run into an interesting apparent hybrid.

While watching the feeders at Mary Jo's in Ash Canyon on 3 Aug 2010, I heard a singing Costa's Hummingbird. Upon tracking the bird down, I was surprised to see a bird that resembled a Costa's but had a noticeably long tail. It sang repeatedly while I was observing it, always producing a typical Costa's song.

(click to enlarge)

Since it was singing a typical Costa's song the bird is obviously part Costa's...but its long tail, projecting well beyond the UTCs, tells us that this is no pure bird. Due to the poor quality of the photos, it is difficult to discern exact plumage details. Lucifer Hummingbird breeds nearby, and it makes one wonder if that is the other parent. The long tail with a fork supports that. The bill is a bit longish and slightly decurved, but this may be within range of Costa's(?). The gorget seems a bit less elongated than a typical Costa's should show.

Any comments on this bird? According to Howell (2002), a Costa's x Lucifer hybrid had not been recorded as of that writing.

Another interesting question might be...if not aware of the bird's vocalizations, what would you call it?

- Nick


  1. Very interesting observations. This is likely the same bird that I saw at the end of March and that was later photographed by Charles Melton (among others):


    What makes your report unusual is that it's the first report I've heard of this bird singing. You wrote that the song was typical of Costa's, by which I assume you mean a drawn-out wheee-oooo. This would shift the evidence strongly toward Costa's as one parent, which is indeed a previously unknown hybrid combination (as is Anna's x Lucifer).

  2. Nick,

    Trust you to see and hear something weird! Cool stuff.


  3. Thanks for your thoughts Sheri, much appreciated. Yes, the high, thin drawn out rising and falling wheee-oooo is what I was referring to. Given that, I would be very surprised if the bird was anything other than Costa's x Lucifer. Thusfar I haven't received any comments suggesting anything different.

    Thanks Luke, enjoy hawkwatching season. Hope to join you in Greenwich someday this fall. Should meet up for a beer at least.

  4. Though a couple of other experienced observers here in AZ originally suggested Costa's x Lucifer, I came down on the side of Anna's x Lucifer based on tail length and gorget shape. Guess the Lucifer side exerted a little more influence in those areas than we might have expected, keeping the tail long and gorget short. I'll pass on your observation and ask that the page be updated to reflect the new information.

  5. Update: I just received photos from Charles Melton of a second Lucifer hybrid that is probably the one you photographed (he also described it as singing a Costa's song), so it turns out that Mary Jo has two previously undocumented Lucifer x Calypte hybrids.

  6. Sheri, that's absolutely fascinating. I really appreciate the updates.

    If you can, could you forward the photos to me at nbonomo(AT)gmail(dot)com for my records, or point me to where they may be published online?

  7. This is going to sound like we're seriously confused here in SE AZ, but in reviewing three sets of photos from two photographers, we've reached a consensus that differences interpreted as indicating two different birds are probably attributable to molt, angle, lighting, etc. The page at azfo.org has been updated but no new photos have been added:


  8. Sheri, not at all, I know how difficult it can be to interpret these things. Thanks again for the update!

  9. I am enjoying this sharing of knowledge and am happy that a consensus was reached! Great detective birding work.
    Glad I was able to hook you two up.

  10. Thanks a lot Dawn, Sheri's input has been invaluable. I was hoping she would be able to join the discussion.


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