Sunday, October 23, 2016

Nova Scotia's Second Calliope Hummingbird

My father, Arthur d'Entremont, photographed a hummingbird at our house in Pubnico, Yarmouth County, on October 21, 2016. I was at work at the time and when I arrived I set up the feeder to see if it would appear again. As I write this, it is two days later and the bird hasn't reappeared.

I had noted the short-looking tail and had asked David Bell and Dominic Cormier for their opinions. They both said that at first look it reminded them of a Calliope Hummingbird, a western species. I then posted photos of the bird to the 'Advanced Bird ID' Facebook page for comments. Sheri L. Williamson quickly wrote back with this response.

"Good call on the tail, Alix. Ruby-throateds often appear quite portly in fall, but this bird's short tail, proportionally large head, and pale face ID it as a Calliope."

Figure 1. Calliope Hummingbird in Middle West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 21, 2016. Photo by Arthur d'Entremont.

Sheri is an ornithologist and author of A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America in the Peterson Field Guide Series. She went on to mention that other supporting features are the pale loral spot at the base of the bill and what appears to be dark R1s. I inquired about age/sex and she said that these hummingbirds are even tough to age/sex in the hand and that this one was a female-type.

A second-year male Calliope present briefly at a feeder in Lunenburg on September 16, 2010 is the only other record in Nova Scotia, making this Pubnico bird the second record for the province (McLaren 2012). Photos of this 2010 record can be seen in Nova Scotia Birds Vol 53, No 1. This bird is a long-distant migrant, and records of accidentals during fall migration and winter are increasingly common in the southeast and south-central US (Calder and Calder 1994).

Figure 2 shows the Calliope in comparison to our default Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Note how the Calliope is very compact, with a short tail and large head. I've added arrows to allow easier visualization of the relative size of the body parts. In fact, the Calliope is North America's smallest breeding bird (length of 3.25"). The tail on a perched Calliope do not reach the folded wing tip. (Calder and Calder 1994)

Figure 2. Ruby-throated Hummingbird (left) and Calliope Hummingbird (right). Photos by Alix d'Entremont (left, August 26, 2014) and Arthur d'Entremont (right, October 21, 2016).

Even though proportions are enough to confidently identify this hummingbird to species, there are a couple other supporting features. The pale loral area near the base of the bill (Fig. 1) and the apparent dark central tail feathers (Figs. 1, 3 & 4) are characteristic of Calliope. The apparent change in amount of buffy colouration between photos is likely just a result of the poor photography conditions. The photos were taken with a point-and-shoot through a window on a rainy day.

Figure 3. Calliope Hummingbird in Middle West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 21, 2016. Photo by Arthur d'Entremont.

Figure 4. Calliope Hummingbird in Middle West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 21, 2016. Photo by Arthur d'Entremont.

It was recently discovered through old photos that our house had Nova Scotia's second Rock Wren back in 2012, now we have this Calliope Hummingbird, also a second for the province. Too bad I wasn't able to see the hummingbird, but at least my father did and was able to get identifiable photos through a window with his brand new point-and-shoot camera.

McLaren, I.A. 2012. All the Birds of Nova Scotia: status & critical identification. Gaspereau Press Ltd, Kentville, N.S., Canada

Calder, William A. and Lorene L. Calder. (1994). Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America:
DOI: 10.2173/bna.135


  1. This is great news, Alix. Thanks for this post.

  2. Nice work by you and your father

  3. I think we saw 2 Calliope hummingbirds in Dartmouth, NS June 2020 in our backyard. Same birds were at the feeder last year too but didn't know what they were. I was googling markings and found this blog. Tried to take pix but they're so fast and so tiny by the time I get off snaps, they're gone.