Operation PhotoTrogon Stop #3 – Paton Center for Hummingbirds

By Jim Gain


This blog series chronicles the adventures that Rich Brown and I experienced on our quest to find and photograph the amazing birds of Southeast Arizona in May of 2022.


I first learned about Wally and Marion Paton when Maria and I ventured to this area back in July of 1997. According to the Lane Bird Guide, it was a must stop location for all birders with its specialty being the Violet-crowned Hummingbird. I remember chatting with Mrs. Paton in their backyard while tallying species such as Summer Tanager and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

The Violet-crowned Hummingbird is the bird to see at the Paton Center. Native to western Mexico, this species’ range just barely reaches into the United States, and the feeders at the Paton Center are the best — and often only — place in the country to see this spectacular bird. While the Violet-crowned may be the star of the show, an amazing total of 15 hummingbird species have been recorded at the Paton feeders, with 12 of these occurring most years. Depending on the time of year, Broad-billed, Anna’s, Rufous, Broad-tailed, and Black-chinned Hummingbirds may all be present at the feeders, along with less-common species such as Costa’s and Calliope Hummingbirds.

Ebird Link: Paton Center for Hummingbirds (Patons’ Yard)
Google Maps Link The Paton Center for Hummingbirds

Rich and I arrived at the Center at noon and were checking off the species before we even left the parking area; Brown-crested Flycatcher, Gila Woodpecker, Summer Tanager and Northern Cardinal.

Brown-crested Flycatcher
Gila Woodpecker
Second-year Male Summer Tanager
Northern Cardinal

Soon we ventured into the backyard and added the star of the Center, a Violet-crowned Hummingbird. It was a brief encounter and would end up being the only time we saw one that afternoon.

Paton Center Backyard Area

I overheard someone mention RUDDY GROUND DOVE out in front and we took off to try and see it. This would be an American Birding Association area bird, though not a lifer as I had just seen many in the Yucatan last January. The docent got us on the calling female just across the wash and he got a scope set up so we all could see it clearly. This is a rare, but regular species overall in SE Arizona, but has been seen regularly here of late. It was not possible to get photographs of the distant female, but as luck would have it, a male appeared in the trees right next to the feeders and I managed a decent shot.

Ruddy Ground Dove

Over the course of our three hours of birding we logged 43 species with photos of 17 species. Ebird Checklist link.

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Summer Tanager – 2nd Year Male
Summer Tanager – Adult Male
Summer Tanager – Female
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Inca Dove
White-breasted Nuthatch (Interior West)
Yellow-breasted Chat
Northern Cardinal – Male
Northern Cardinal – Female
White-winged Dove
Gambel’s Quail

Next Stop: Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary

4 thoughts on “Operation PhotoTrogon Stop #3 – Paton Center for Hummingbirds”

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