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Fort Stockton Unit officer sights bird of different feather

hummingbird sitting on feeder
A young violet-crowned hummingbird sits at a feeder in the Fort Stockton backyard of Alex and Gerda Martinez.

Photo by Alex Martinez

It was a bird of a different feather that Alex Martinez saw in his Fort Stockton back yard one day last November.

As casual birdwatchers, he and his wife Gerda knew the hummingbird was different from anything they had ever seen, but they didn’t know exactly what it was. So Martinez, a CO IV at the Fort Stockton Unit, took a picture of it as it sat at a bird feeder and posted its image on the Internet. A hummingbird expert, in Alaska of all places, saw the photograph and contacted Kelly Bryan, a former Texas Parks and Wildlife official and hummingbird authority living in Alpine. Bryan called the Fort Stockton couple and went to their home to get a firsthand look at the little bird with the long, thin beak. Only then was he able to confirm that it was indeed a violet-crowned hummingbird, a Mexican native that has rarely been seen in Texas. In fact, the sighting by the Fort Stockton couple was only the fourteenth to be documented by the Texas Ornithological Society. The sighting will be officially published in the society’s annals next year.

Martinez and his German-born wife moved to Fort Stockton from Huntsville about four years ago because, after seeing a film about the desert, she wanted to live as close to one as possible. He had previously worked at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit for about two years. 

“We wanted to see how far TDCJ could take us,” Martinez said about his transfer west. “We asked, ‘How close can we get to the desert?’ and this was it.”

Martinez said the only other critters of interest he and his wife have spotted in their yard since moving to Fort Stockton has been a horned toad and a road runner.

“That’s not very rare, is it?” Martinez said about the road runner. “But try to find a horned toad in Huntsville.”

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