Brightly colored hummingbirds may be back in neighborhood soon

April and May are peak spring migration months for birds.

During spring migration, there are chances to see unusual birds in their vibrant breeding colors.

No bird colors are more vibrant than the iridescent throat patch or gorget of a male hummingbird. This dazzling color is produced by feathers that trap ultra thin layers of air bubbles that work like tiny prisms to split light.

Female hummingbirds have at best a few iridescent scales in the center of the throat and are more difficult to identify.

Six species of hummingbirds visit Sacramento, and three of them might be seen in Curtis Park backyards: Anna’s, black-chinned, and rufous hummingbirds. Anna’s hummingbirds reside here year round. The male Anna’s has the ability to refract a blazing rose pink light from his head and throat.

Black-chinned hummingbirds, like Anna’s, but smaller, nest here in the summer, but migrate south for winter.

The black-chinned gets its name because its purple iridescent patch is limited to a band on the male’s throat. It is more sparingly displayed than the Anna’s and when not displayed, all you see is black.

Rufous hummingbirds are uncommon and only pass through our area on the way to nesting grounds farther north. They are easy to identify because of orange on the back and chest. The male gorget can show gold, red, or green, sometimes in combination.

There are two nearby sites to see lots of hummingbirds during migration. One is the flower garden near the chapel at the Sacramento City Cemetery. The other is at either end of the UC Davis arboretum trail along Putah Creek, where a variety of Australian Grevillea flowers are found. If you are very lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the distinctive streaked magenta gorget of a rare calliope hummingbird passing through on the way to the Sierra at either of these sites.

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