Ahh, for the love of Hummingbirds! I mean, who doesn’t love these energetic little beauties? I grew up in the great Pacific Northwest, and hummingbirds sightings were few and far between. We saw an Anna’s every now and then, and even rarer yet was the Rufous Hummingbird. So, I was very excited to be spending some time in Mexico. Having pretty much memorized my Sibley Guide, I knew that there was going to be a whole new group of hummingbirds to add to my Life List. The names, the colors, they were all fascinating to me. Broad-billed, White-eared, Berylline, Green-breasted Mango, and of course the Magnificent Hummingbird were all names I longed to have right there alongside my paltry two species. The bulk of the fifty species here in Mexico, all live on the other side of the Sea of Cortez, on the mainland part of Mexico.

Alas, our adventure has only carried us to the southern half of Baja California. This did result in a few new species. The Costa’s, The Black-chinned, and the Xanthus’s. We do have a rare Anna’s show up every now and then, but for the most part, my hummingbird search is limited to the very common Costa’s. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Costa’s is a truly beautiful bird. The easily identifiable purple gorget, when seen in the right light, is stunning.

Costa (2)

Male Costa’s at Playa Coyote


Female Costa's Hummingbird in a Cardon Cactus bloom

Female Costa’s Hummingbird in a Cardon Cactus bloom


Of late, I have made it my quest to get the ultimate photo of the Xanthus’s Hummingbird. The Xanthus’s is one of the endemic species here on the Baja. Its range is typically limited to the southern half of the Baja, or Baja California Sur. While I have no scientific proof, this species tends to be found in the drier, less populated areas. While this does not mean they wont be seen at an occasional feeder, they seem to prefer the scrub brush and arroyos. Similar to the White-eared Hummingbird that is occasionally seen in Arizona, its white eyebrow is slightly less prominent. Most of the Xanthus’s Hummingbirds that I have photographed have had a slight dip in their black tipped bill.

Male Xanthus's Hummingbird

Male Xanthus’s Hummingbird


Xanthus’s are quite solitary, rarely seen with their species, or any others. One of the great phenomena that I have seen a couple of times, is when there will be a single plant out in the middle of the desert come into bloom, with out another similar plant around. Butterflies, orioles, and hummingbirds will amass at a plant like this in amazing numbers. Last summer, such a plant bloomed near Playa Coyote, near the Cerralvo Channel of the Sea of Cortez. I counted nearly 30 Costa’s Hummingbirds, countless butterflies, but none of our antisocial Xanthus’s to be seen. This on a bush that was ten meters by ten meters. Just last weekend, while on a shoot near La Ventanna, Mexico, I hiked to what I call the “Hummingbird Bush”, a Baja California Rock-nettle, Eucnide cordate, located 3/4 of a mile up an arroyo. This plant produces a lovely white flower, and seems to be in bloom well over half the year. Early Sunday morning, there were 6-8 Costa’s feeding on the plant, while the only Xanthus’s stayed well away, feeding on a nearly dead shriveled up section of plant across the creek bed.

So far, this is my favorite Xanthus's Photo

So far, this is my favorite Xanthus’s Photo, feeding at the Rock-nettle


Someday, our little sailboat will untie her dock lines and our adventure will continue. We will sail across the Sea of Cortez to the mainland of Mexico, and then all those lovely hummingbird names that I have dreamed of, will come true.


Xanthus 2

Written by Tom Brown
Tom Brown grew up in the high desert area of central Oregon. His love for birds and photography started at a young age. Thru the course of time, travel, and a lot of different occupations, he ended up living in Seattle, and met a girl with a sailboat. When he is not scouring whatever area they are in, looking for the next great bird photo, he can be found trying to earn enough money for the next adventure, and of course, a new lens or camera body! Having been nick-named “The Bird Nerd” by his last remaining friends and family, Tom continues search for that next lifer, and the accompanying photo that goes with it. Find his continuing adventures, photographs, and guiding opportunities at Focus on Feathers.