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Home Tourist Attraction Rare hummingbird turns California family’s new yard into tourist attraction

Rare hummingbird turns California family’s new yard into tourist attraction

by Staff

The distinctive red beak is one of the identifiers of this broad-billed hummingbird as it perches in a Palo Verde tree at the home of Kristin Joseph in Glendora on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. After Joseph took advantage of local rebates to replace her lawn with native and drought-tolerant plants, her new garden began attracting a variety of local birds, bees and other pollinators. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Over the past two weeks, a couple hundred people have flocked from Northern California, Arizona and everywhere in between to stake out a quiet neighborhood in Glendora.

They come bearing binoculars, telephoto lenses and a shared mission: To catch sight of “BB.”

That’s the name birders have bestowed on an elusive broad-billed hummingbird that is now calling Kristin Joseph’s flower-filled front yard home.

He might not be quite as eye-popping as the snowy owl that  captivated people for several weeks in January of 2023 after it veered off course and nested in north Orange County. But since BB’s variety of petite, fast-flying hummingbirds are usually only found in the canyons and woodlands of Mexico and southern Arizona, not Glendora, they can be tricky for local enthusiasts to check off their birding bucket lists.

“This is one that you don’t typically get to see in our area,” said Evelyn Serrano, director of the Audubon Center at Debs Park in Montecito Heights.

Joseph credits the fact that she and her husband have spent the past couple of years converting their yard into a paradise for pollinators. And while BB is definitely their most famous guest to date, she said they’ve enjoyed a steady parade of new visitors ever since they traded their thirsty lawn for drought-tolerant native plants.

“We’ve gotten so many new different species of butterflies. We’ve had grasshoppers, which I hadn’t seen in years. I had praying mantises, which I had not ever had,” Joseph said. “And I have a plethora of birds in my yard all day long.”

With BB, Joseph said she heard the difference even before she could see it.

As an amateur birder, she always pays attention to the visitors that wing through her yard. So when she noticed a bird humming an original tune, distinct from the familiar song she hears whenever Anna’s variety hummingbirds drop in for a drink, Joseph grabbed her binoculars.

The tiny bird’s bright red beak was the next clue. Joseph’s birding books told her she was looking at a broad-billed hummingbird, and, based on its coloring, very likely a male. So two weeks ago, she logged the sighting on eBird, a popular online database run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Someone from the lab contacted her, asking for pictures to verify the sighting. She loaded two photos on the site Feb. 11 and said people quickly began reaching out to ask if they could come see BB’s red beak, dark tail and iridescent body for themselves.

Since then, dozens of photos of BB sipping on native plant nectar in Joseph’s yard have been uploaded to the eBird site.

“It’s just been the nicest group of people,” Joseph said. “Someone left a whole thing of sugar on my porch to make more hummingbird food. A few people have left gift cards and thank you notes. They have just been so thrilled to see this bird.”

One woman told Joseph she was supposed to go with a group to Arizona to try to see a broad-billed hummingbird recently but missed the trip because she was sick. So when she heard about BB sightings not far from where she lives, Joseph said she showed up wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with a picture of a hummingbird.

“They’ve been very respectful and very happy to see that I had transformed my yard, because it’s kind of like a little habitat.”

The transformation started a couple years ago, when Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the city of Glendora were offering residents rebates if they removed turf from their property. Joseph’s long, narrow front yard had been entirely grass ever since her family moved in nearly two decades earlier. So they first spent the rebate money replacing that lawn with succulents and hardscape materials.

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