Photos: Shari Zirlin
East of the Mississippi, the only hummingbird you can expect to find is the ruby-throat. West of the Mississippi there are lots of hummers and once in a while one wanders east. Most of the time in New Jersey they wind up in Cape May, but this hummingbird has been frequenting a backyard in Toms River, only 6 point something miles from here as the hummer flies. It is only the 2nd Ocean County record for this genus. Note genus, not species and that's where the frustration comes in.
There are two species in the genus that are virtually indistinguishable from one another: Allen's and Rufous. In mating season you might be able to tell males apart from their aerial displays, otherwise the only way to reliably tell them apart is by the shape of the tail feathers when they are spread. Good luck with that on this tiny bird. All the shots Shari was able to get had the feathers closed up tight. Shawn, the homeowner, said that there had been some talk of banding the bird, in which case a positive i.d. could be made, but until that happens, or someone gets lucky with a camera, we have to let it go as Selasphorus sp.
Still, an excellent bird to see, especially since in the aftermath of Sandy, our birding is pretty much confined to our backyard, defining our backyard as the Whiting WMA. It seems all the refuges and parks are closed due to either to lack of power or horrific storm damage. Another example of the damage was relayed to today by Shawn: Cattus Island Nature Center, which is raised at least 5 feet off the ground, still had 5 inches of water flood into the building. Things are not getting better; instead we are still discovering and uncovering how profound the damage is.
Other views of the hummer: