Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Time to Start Looking for Winter hummingbirds!

It’s almost November first! Time to talk hummingbirds! For those of you who have been reading my Observer column for a few years, you should know what I am talking about. For those of you who may be new readers, this may strike you as an odd time of year to be discussing hummingbirds. Not so.
For the most part, our ruby-throated hummingbirds departed the southern piedmont around October eleventh. The water level in my feeder hasn’t moved since then. There may be a few ruby-throat stragglers still, but they will almost certainly be moving on soon. If you are still seeing a hummingbird at your feeder, you need to take a close look at it. Any hummingbird seen in Mecklenburg County after November first is much more likely to be a species that has flown in from the western United States. I suspect there are some of these long-range visitors with some of you right now. Please let me know if you are still seeing one.
As November wears on the likelihood of a hummingbird visiting you will increase. Keep your feeders up and maintained. Watch for fleeting visitors or dropping water levels, especially after the passage of strong cold fronts. Last November I received a dozen messages that hummingbirds had arrived after the passage of an unusually strong front mid-month. By New Years Day I had records of over thirty-five hummingbirds visiting feeders in the area. Some birds decided to move on after a day or so but some ended up staying almost to April, departing just in time for the ruby-throateds to come back.
The most likely species that you might see will be the rufous hummingbird. Males are pretty unmistakable, being almost all red. The females and immature, which are the most likely to be seen are more challenging to identify. Look for some reddish coloring on the flanks and around the tail region. If you get one, take a photo if possible and send it to me.

I will be writing more about wintering hummingbirds as the season goes on, providing updates on numbers and locations. 
Compare the two species in the photos below.


Female Rufous hummingbird by Jennifer Carpenter
In this photo of a female rufous hummingbird, notice the reddish plumage on the flanks and on the sides of the tail. This color is something to look for when examining late fall and winter hummingbird visitors. This is the most likely plumage these birds will be exhibiting.

In the photo of an immature male rufous hummingbird below, notice how most of the plumage is an unusual reddish-orange

Male rufous hummingbird by Fran Thomas


 

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Phil Fowler
In comparison, this female ruby-throated hummingbird shows no reddish plumage at all. This is the species that nests in the eastern United States. If you are seeing any type of hummingbird right now, let me know at piephoffT@aol.com

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Should we expect any up in Ashe County part of NC?

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Wonderful post dear! i really enjoyed while reading it. these hummingbirds are rare in our area. I would like to share it with my friends too. Beautiful nature....