The Berylline Hummingbirds of Rancho Primavera

ber · yl \’ber-əl\ n : a mineral consisting of a silicate of beryllium and aluminum of great hardness and occurring in green, bluish green, yellow, pink, or white hexagonal prisms. ber · yl · line \’ber-əl-līn, -lēn\ adj

Start of a new day at Rancho Primavera

Start of a new day at Rancho Primavera

I was out for a morning ramble across the idyllic Rancho Primavera, outside El Tuito, Jalisco. It was my seventh trip to the region, and my sixth to the ranch itself, a private wildlife preserve comprising over 200 acres in the foothills of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental. I wandered through one of the open meadows enjoying the constant chatter of Great Kiskadees and Social Flycatchers—two species that look amazingly similar and yet represent two different genera (Pitangus and Myiozetetes) in the world’s largest bird family, the Tyrant-flycatchers (Tyrannidae). A raucous conversation among West Mexican Chachalacas echoed from two different directions, while a busy flock of Orange-fronted Parakeets screeched from tree-top to tree-top.

The edge of that special meadow

The edge of that special meadow

I approached that edge for a better look at the parakeets, when I was stopped by a highway of hummingbirds zipping across a bank of flowering trees and shrubs. Anytime I explore the ranch, I always expect the very common Cinnamon Hummingbirds, with their glowing orange bellies and sharp clicking chatter. The Cinnamons dominate the feeders at the main ranch house, while Plain-capped Starthroats and Broad-billed Hummers do their best to steal time at the nectar ‘troughs’. At least 14 hummingbird species have occurred here, though the three above tend to be the most commonly observed.

But this day—at the edge of that meadow—I found an abundance of Berylline Hummingbirds. I have never seen a Berylline at the ranch’s feeders, so finding at least a half-dozen individuals at one flower bank caught my attention. One of the first hummers I saw in Mexico was a Berylline. I have seen the species multiple times in southeastern Arizona. And I have seen them before at Rancho Primavera. I just did not expect a swarm of Beryllines on this particular morning.

Endemic to the western slopes of Mexico and northern Central America—rare but regular in se. Arizona—the Berylline Hummingbird thrives in the Sierra Madrean foothills of Cabo Corrientes, in extreme western Jalisco, Mexico. Current taxonomy places the Berylline in the large and diverse Amazilia genus, which it shares with the Buff-bellied Hummingbird, well-known to North American birders as a specialty of southern Texas. These two species are the northernmost of the Amazilia hummers, though they may only be distantly related to each other.

Like most hummingbirds of the Amazilia genus, the Berylline lacks a distinctively colored gorget that many birders have come to expect in North American hummers. It does, however, display the rufous wings that are characteristic of its closest cousins. With a fairly typical hummingbird size and shape, the Berylline might even be seen as ‘just another hummer’ in the filtered light of its tropical and subtropical woodlands. One twist of the bird’s torso, however, sets its emerald-green upper-body aglow. A back-shot may display the gorgeous purplish tones of the tail feathers and upper-tail coverts, and a keen eye might pick up its tiny white ‘boots’.

After my morning of Berylline enlightenment, my hummingbird radar was piqued, and my Berylline search image was cemented. I started seeing them all over the property, still never at the feeders, but widely scattered along the edges of open meadows and pastures. I worked hard for the perfect light angle and experimented with my camera settings, capturing some wonderful images of my ‘new’ friends. Most humans only know the term ‘berylline’ as it relates to the beryllium spheres that powered the quantum flux drive of the NSEA Protector in Galaxy Quest. Now that you are more enlightened, however, you know that a little beryllium combined with a little aluminum makes this special hummingbird glow a bright emerald green among the woodlands of Cabo Corrientes.

Just 90 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta—on the highway to Manzanillo—lies the tiny pueblo of El Tuito, known to locals as, simply, “Tuito”. Just 3 km from town on the Camino a Chacala, Rancho Primavera is a former mango plantation and cattle ranch that is now conserved as wildlife habitat. The ranch offers comfortable accommodations for nature lovers, with a wonderful network of hiking trails and a list of more than 200 bird species—and counting. You must visit this place! Learn more at www.ranchoprimaveramexico.com.

The Berylline Hummingbirds loved these gaudy tropical flowers.

The Berylline Hummingbirds loved these gaudy tropical flowers.