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Los Angeles Vacation 2/24

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The first thing I noticed about Los Angeles was the birds! (Actually, the first thing I noticed was the weather--good February temps between 65 and 80 and brightly sunny every day we were there.) This is a western gull: Large size, medium gray wings, pink feet, red spot on the bill. Larus occidentalis. By the way, this is Long Beach, which isn't even really Los Angeles, but it's close.

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Ruby-throated hummingbird Archilochus colubris

Hummingbirds are only found in the New World, and in the northeast the only hummingbird that one is likely to encounter is the ruby-throat. A couple other species are infrequent visitors, but the ruby-throat spends the whole summer in our area, nesting and raising tiny chicks. The group is much more diverse in the west, and especially in the Neotropics.

Hummingbirds are truly unique among birds, with a wing-beat frequency of over 50 per second, allowing them to hover in place, fly backwards or straight up, and perform aerial acrobatics no other vertebrate can manage. They feed mainly on flower nectar, supplemented with small insects and spiders. Commercially available hummingbird feeders are available, but ours has attracted only ants. Our cheap butterfly bushes--nearly dead when Alexis rescued them from the close-out shelf--seem to be what drew this female to the yard. The species is named for the metallic red feathers on the male's throat.
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A hummingbird just visited the yard.

3:00 snapshot #691



Here's an interesting product that claims to mimic lichen and spiderweb, two known preferred nesting materials for hummingbirds. I recommend having google set to moderate safesearch before looking for the product name.

365 Urban Species. #107: Green-throated Carib


photos, naturally, by cottonmanifesto
Urban species #107: Green-throated Carib Eulampis holosericeus

I have seen a hummingbird in the city of Boston exactly once. However, in cities with more reliable sources of nectar, hummingbirds can be common. San Francisco, California and San Jose, Costa Rica are two cities I've visited that are almost lousy with hummingbirds. To that, I add the greater St Johns, Antigua area.

Trees, shrubs, and vines of one kind or another are always in bloom on the island. Even fairly close to the hot, treeless main drag of souvenir shops, the hummingbirds buzz around. Despite their small size and seemingly fragile bodies, they are bold and pugnacious animals willing to fight other birds for resources, and often come quite close to humans when flying.

On Antigua, the hummingbird we most often encountered was the green-throated carib, a relatively plain (compared to other tropical hummingbirds) but still strikingly beautiful creature.

We also saw the smaller Antillean crested hummingbird (Orthorhyncus cristatus) quite often, but it was too fast for us to obtain any good photographs.
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