The Sibley Difference

I decided that when I went to the west coast I would take my National Geographic Field Guide to Birds. It's a little smaller than the Sibley Guide to Birds, and fit perfectly in a pocket of my carry on suitcase. I also chose it because I keep little check marks next to birds that I have seen so I could have an idea for target birds. Oh, lamentable choice, it steered me so wrong! I misidentified another bird in the blog--that's two birds in a week. Uff-dah.

The gull misidentification was not field guide related, that was Kate and I trying to remember a gull with no field guide handy over dirty martinis. Lesson learned: don't id birds in a blog at a bar without a field guide. The hummer id, I blame on the guide, I should have checked Sibley before I posted, yet I was impatient.

Here is the hummer photo that I posted (granted, not a great photo):
Now, having only the National Geographic I narrowed it down to either an Anna's Hummingbird (below)...

...or a black-chinned hummingbird (below).

Thinking the bill was a tad off, I chose to go with the black-chinned, based on how dark the throat looked, the white spot behind the eye and that the throat color didn't appear to go as far back in the photo as it appeared to do in the National Geographic illustration. I took a chance and posted...

...then I got an email from fellow Minnesota birder Terry Brashear:

Your Black-chinned Hummingbird appears to be a Male Anna's. A black-chinned this time of year would be unusual for San Diego since the majority of them are in Mexico. When they are found in San Diego in spring they are usually in the foothills in the east part of San Diego County. I birded there 25 years and saw one Black-chinned in the coastal area of San Diego. I took a look at the CBC data for San Diego and none were reported this year. Thought you'd like to know.

Doh! So, as soon as I got home (well, after a warm greeting from Non Birding Bill) I checked ye olde Sibley to see where I went wrong. Here is an Anna's hummingbird in the Sibley Guide...

...and here is a black-chinned hummingbird in the Sibley Guide:

Looking at the Sibley guide, I see the bill shape is incorrect for a black-chinned the light pattern on the head more closely matches the Anna's. So, from now on I will pack Sibley.