Hummingbird banding report, August 30

Migration is finally in full swing! This week’s banding session at Casa De San Pedro B & B was by far the most exciting of the fall migration, with 20 new birds of six species. Highlights included three impossibly tiny Calliopes (a stunning adult male and two juveniles), adult male and juvenile male Broad-tailed, and two adult Black-chinned with “gray hairs,” giving the adult female the appearance of having some junco in her family tree. (Click the photos below to see a larger version.)

BTLH HYM 30Aug15

Broad-tailed juvenile male

CAHU male 30 Aug 15

Calliope adult male

BCHU x junco tail

Black-chinned adult female with abnormal white feathers

Our banding team was fortunate to be able to share the diversity and majesty of these “little big birds” with the B&B’s guests and a few visitors.

Banding session continue through the first weekend in October. The public is always welcome at banding sessions at the San Pedro House; reservations may be required for sessions at Casa de San Pedro. “Adoptions” of banded birds will be available for a $25 contribution to SABO.

Hummingbird banding report

A juvenile male Broad-billed Hummingbird with a shiny new band takes a look around before returning to the wild. Photo by SABO volunteer Lynne Zaninelli.

SABO’s hummingbird banding team has been busy on the San Pedro River! Over the last four banding sessions (two at each site), we’ve caught 32 “new” (unbanded) birds (25 Black-chinneds, 7 Broad-billeds) and recaptured 8 previously banded birds (all Black-chinneds). Captures at Casa de San Pedro Bed & Breakfast (27) have been running significantly ahead of those at our original site at the San Pedro House (13), and young birds (27) greatly outnumber adults (13).

One recent recapture at the San Pedro House is E64396, named “Anna” by her sponsors. She was banded as an adult in April 2008; at a minimum age of 8 years, she’s among the oldest individuals in our study. This was her seventh recapture in total and her fourth this year! Her abdomen was swollen indicating a developing egg; if the nest is successful, the young should fledge in late August.

Another important recapture at the San Pedro House was P44518, a female Black-chinned banded by our team 27 months earlier and almost 10 miles farther south at Casa de San Pedro. She had an egg in development at the time of her original capture but no sign of breeding on her recapture. Since this was her first recapture, it’s hard to say whether she is now part of the population near the San Pedro House or just a post-breeding visitor.

A celebration marking the 20th year of the San Pedro Hummingbird Project is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, September 26 October 3. Stay tuned for details! We’re also counting down to our 6000th hummingbird banded at the San Pedro House. With just 48 new birds to go, we expect to reach 6K before the end of the season.

There are only 18 sessions left in the 2015 banding season, 9 at each site. If you’d like to join us, please check the Calendar of Events for upcoming dates. If you’d like to help us keep the project going, please consider making a donation or “adopting” a banded hummingbird for yourself or as a gift. Thank you for your support!

Huachuca Canyon reopens

We received the following news this afternoon from Mrs. Angela Camara
Public Affairs Officer at Fort Huachuca:

Fort Huachuca officials have reopened Huachuca Canyon to recreational users during daylight hours.

The nuisance bear was located and, in coordination with Arizona Game and Fish experts, the bear was put down humanely due to its aggressive nature and lack of fear towards humans. The bear was considered a Category 1 nuisance bear.

Fort recreational users should remain alert to the possibility of bear activity in the canyon. If you see a bear, remain calm. Keep your distance from the bear and move slowly and deliberately away from it. Let the bear know you’re there by making noise. Keep children and pets close to you.

Once you are safely away from the bear, call the Fort Huachuca military police desk at (520) 533-3000 and report the encounter.

SABO’s Huachuca Canyon field trip for Fiesta de las Aves is a go for Saturday morning, May 2. There’s still space if you’d like to join us for a guided tour of this very special area.

Access update: Huachuca Canyon CLOSED

We’ve recently received notification from Fort Huachuca’s Public Affairs Office (520-533-1850) that Huachuca Canyon has been closed in the interests of public safety in response to reports of Black Bear and Mountain Lion activity. According to Fort Huachuca’s Facebook page, a bear is reported to have “followed and charged hikers and later chuffed at cyclists in the canyon.” A previous notice announced the reinstatement of a policy that recreational visitors to Huachuca Canyon must check in and out at the Military Police Station at 22336 Christy Avenue (520-533-3000), on the road into Huachuca Canyon.

It is currently unclear how long this this closure will last and whether it will affect SABO’s Huachuca Canyon field trip on May 2, but we will notify registered participants as soon as we know more. Thanks for your patience.

How To Watch Eared Quetzals


An adult male Eared Quetzal near Madera, Chihuahua.

An Eared Quetzal, one of the most mysterious and frustrating rarities in southeastern Arizona, was sighted around midday on April 17 in Gardner Canyon, a rugged and infrequently birded canyon on the east side of the Santa Rita Mountains. Tucson birders Patty Tersey and Keith Kamper found the bird and reported details of their encounter to the Arizona-New Mexico listserv.

Good Birders Don't<br />
Wear White: 50 Tips From North America's Top BirdersEared Quetzals are infamous as the species that raised awareness of how the colors we wear while birding may affect the birds themselves and therefore birding success, as summarized in the essay “Good Birders Don’t Wear White.”

Based on our extensive experience with Eared Quetzals in both Mexico and Arizona, we offer the following tips that may make the difference between success and failure for would-be quetzal watchers:

  • Dress in muted, natural colors from your hat right down to your boots and socks. Browns, mid-tone grays, tans, and natural greens are all okay, but avoid white and very light pastels, bright colors, and light blues such as faded denim. If your wardrobe doesn’t include any camo, muted plaids and checks dominated by shades of green, brown, tan, and/or gray are the next best thing.
  • Eared Quetzals are more often heard than seen, so prepare by studying recordings of the bird’s calls ahead of time. The most commonly heard calls from both sexesthe squeal-chuck and the flight cackleare signs of alarm. If you hear either of these calls, the bird has probably seen you and/or another observer and is in evasive mode. Chasing a frightened quetzal is counterproductive. The best strategy is to freeze in place until it calms down.
  • A stationary quetzal giving the tremolo call is advertising to prospective mates and/or rivals and provides the best opportunity for stealthy approach. This call is heard most often from males during the summer breeding season.
  • When approaching an area where the bird has been sighted, move slowly and as little as possible, stay in the shadows, and keep noise to a minimum. Eared Quetzals are extremely stealthy for their size and can fly in quite close to you without you realizing it, so any sudden moves or sounds may result in lost viewing opportunities for yourself and others.
  • Eared Quetzals are rare globally and extremely rare in the United States, and their continuing presence in Arizona may depend in large part on how we behave toward them. Use of playback in an attempt to attract Eared Quetzals is contrary to the American Birding Association’s Principles of Birding Ethics, which recommends the following:

If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation, and intervene if you think it prudent. When interceding, inform the person(s) of the inappropriate action, and attempt, within reason, to have it stopped. If the behavior continues, document it, and notify appropriate individuals or organizations.

(This post is adapted from posts to the BirdChat listserv in December 1999, the Arizona-New Mexico listserv in 2005, and the Birders on the Border blog in January 2011.)

USFS announces reopening of campgrounds in Chiricahua Mountains

An important access update from the Coronado National Forest Douglas Ranger District:

Rustler Park, Stewart and Sunny Flat campgrounds reopen
Cave Creek Visitor Center expands hours

Tucson, AZ (March 26, 2015) – For Immediate Release.  The Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District, will reopen Rustler Park Campground and Forest Road 42D from the campground to its terminus at Long Park.  The campground and road are expected to open Friday, March 27, 2015, following seasonal winter closure. Vehicles up to 22 feet in length can be accommodated.

Stewart (maximum vehicle length 16 feet) and Sunny Flat (maximum vehicle length 28 feet) campgrounds will also reopen March 27. The campgrounds were temporarily closed due to flooding in 2014.  They may be subject to future closures depending on forecasted large precipitation events in the vicinity.  Recreationists are advised to plan accordingly by following updated weather forecasts.

Overnight campground fees are $10.00 per night.  Fees for picnicking or other day use in the campgrounds are $10.00 per day.  Hook-ups are not available at the sites.  Visitors are asked to bring drinking water to Rustler Park since it is not available at the campground.  Drinking water is available at Stewart and Sunny Flat campgrounds.

Idlewilde Campground and National Forest System Road 42E, South Fork Road remain closed due to storm-related damage.  The closed areas will be gated and advisory signs posted.

Copies of Special Closure Orders and maps will be posted at closed areas, available at the Douglas Ranger District Office, and posted on the Coronado National Forest website ( ).

The Cave Creek Visitor Information Center, located in Portal, Arizona, has increased the hours it is open for business to Friday through Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Visitation hours will be expanded further into the season.

For more information please contact the Douglas Ranger District located at 1192 W. Saddleview Road in Douglas, Arizona.  The office can be reached by phone by calling (520) 364-3468.  Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.



Registration now open for the 2015 Hummingbirds of Arizona Tour

White-eared Hummingbird

White-eared Hummingbird

It’s shaping up to be another exciting hummingbird season in southeastern Arizona! Last year, birders spotted 15 of the 18 hummingbird species recorded in the state, including White-eared and Plain-capped Starthroat in multiple locations as well as Lucifer, Violet-crowned, Allen’s, Calliope, and the occasional hybrid. What will the monsoon of 2015 bring? Join us August 9-15 for SABO’s Hummingbirds of Arizona Tour and find out!

The 7-day, 6-night tour will begin and end in Tucson and cover a wide range of habitats, from classic Sonoran Desert to the lush streamside forests of the San Pedro River and the cool, shady canyons of the “sky islands.” Our destinations will include the world-famous Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Madera Canyon, the Paton Center for Hummingbirds in Patagonia, Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Ash Canyon Bed & Breakfast, and Beatty’s Guest Ranch in Miller Canyon.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Your guides will be SABO’s founders and internationally known hummingbird researchers, Sheri L. Williamson and Tom Wood. Tom has over four decades of experience as a wildlife biologist, naturalist, and educator, and Sheri is the author of A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America in the Peterson Field Guide Series.

This is a small-group tour, so reserve your space now!

Trinidad & Tobago update!


Tufted Coquette

On the advice of Peg Abbott of Caligo Ventures, we’ve added a night to our Trinidad & Tobago tour (now June 18-27) to visit the top hummingbird hot spot on the island of Tobago. We’ll also be joined by local experts who will help us identify, understand, and appreciate the kaleidoscopic hummingbird wonders of the islands.

There’s still time to make your reservations for this exciting tropical adventure! To reserve, contact Caligo Ventures at toll-free (800) 426-7781, (520) 558-1146, or

Spring activities now online

ELTR-HuachucaSABO’s spring activities are now on the calendar and ready for registrations! New this year are Thursday walks in lower Carr Canyon, scheduled during the peak of spring migration from mid-April through mid-May. We will also offer a special field trip to Huachuca Canyon on Saturday, May 2 as part of our annual Fiesta de las Aves Spring Migration Celebration.

Personalized field trip options are also available, including walks on the San Pedro River and in the Huachuca Mountains, driving tours of the Sulphur Springs Valley, and grassland explorations at Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Please contact SABO for availability.