Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hummingbirds on Their Way!

Within the next week some of you will see the first returning ruby-throated hummingbirds of the year. I have seen them as early as March 31 myself, but sometimes they can arrive even earlier than that. But by April first or second I am getting a constant stream of reports of newly-arrived hummingbirds.

The first sightings will likely be of adult males. They arrive first to find territories and to await the females who are not far behind. These first birds are likely just passing through and may not stay long, so don’t fret if you go a few days without seeing any after your initial sighting. The breeding birds are on their way.

Adult Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Phil Fowler

It seems the arriving hummingbirds time their movements north with the blooming of crossvine , a fine native climbing plant with large, showy trumpet-shaped flowers that is common in low woods. And of course, tiny spiders and flying insects become abundant very quickly after temperatures warm, so there is ample protein for the hungry birds too.

Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) by Taylor Piephoff

The ruby-throated hummers also come in shortly after the wintering rufous hummingbirds depart. This winter was an off-year for wintering hummingbird numbers, not just in Mecklenburg County but across the whole Eastern United States. I am aware of only three birds that spent the winter in Mecklenburg County, down from an average of over a dozen for most winters. One bird has already departed and I expect any still hanging on to be gone in the next week.

The photo below is of a female rufous hummingbird that spent the entire winter in Mint Hill. That little beauty weathered single-digit temperatures and a couple of bouts of frozen precipitation. The photo nicely shows the rufous colors on the tail, a characteristic that ruby-throated hummingbirds never show.

Female Rufous Hummingbird by Wayne Johnson

If you have hosted a hummingbird this winter and have not reported it, I encourage you to let me know. I try to track the numbers and locations of the wintering birds.

So if you brought your feeders in last fall and haven’t put them back up yet, time is running short if you want to get in on the initial push of the ruby-throated males. And please let me know when you sight your first hummingbird of the year.


Anonymous said...

We spotted the first Ruby-throated Hummingbird at our feeders today March 2. We live in Indian Land,SC.

Anonymous said...

First hummingbird on April 3 n east Charlotte area. It seemed mostly black.

Sue P. said...

I had two visit my feeder on April 3rd in the early evening . Both very little color. I live in south-east Charlotte.

Ellie said...

male Hummer visited feeder at 1315 on Sat 4/3. They come to my feeders about same time each year and stay. When they all come have about 5 or 6 couples
Live in Stanley NC Lincoln County
Actually near 73 and 16 crossing

Anonymous said...

first Ruby male 4/3,first female 4/6 we live on the west side of Charlotte near Belmont

George Sellers said...

Saw my first hummingbird of the season (a male ruby) on my feeder today (APR 10) in NW Charlotte (near Mt. Island Lake)l

missy eanes said...

Hi, I saw two Hummingbirds the first week in April for about 10 days then they were gone. Since we are close to the end of May I was wondering where they are so I called my Mom who usually has between 30 to 40 every year (lots of feeders for years) and she said she only has about 4 this year. I only had about 10 last year but they stayed till fall but nothing at this point.