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Adventures of a wildlife photographer: "Hummers"

September 14, 2011

Photo by Rocky Holland – The hummingbirds will soon be gone from the area for the winter. They will migrate as far south as Panama.

I’ve mentioned hummingbirds many times in my writings, but never have actually written much about them. We are only a week or so from fall, and, yes, I still have my hummingbird feeder up. I watched two hummers this morning, so they are still around. Taking down your hummingbird feeders on Labor Day doesn’t send a message to these little guys to go south. They know when to go, and your hummingbird feeders have nothing to do with it. In my new issue of “Birds & Blooms,” a reader asked bird expert George Harrison when he would suggest you take your hummingbird feeders down, and George’s answer was this.
“Don’t take your feeders down when your resident birds disappear. There may be millions of other hummingbirds north of your backyard that will be passing through and will stop for a recharge.”
He suggests keeping them up into October, or whenever you are sure you’ve seen the last of them. They are amazing birds and a great sign of the summer months for everyone, especially in the frozen north where we live. Here in the east, we only have one hummingbird, the Ruby-throated. The males, of course, displaying the brilliant scarlet red throat patch, whenever the light is just right, to get the females attention. A very friendly, but slightly shy bird, that you can approach very closely, as they seem to be watching us as much as we watch them. I know many of you out there have been filling your feeders, with a hummer a few feet away, waiting its turn.
Ruby-throats breed from Canada to the Gulf Coast. They are about three inches long and weigh a hefty tenth of an ounce. They feed on nectar and insects. They have very strong breast muscles which enable them to have the strength to hover in place for extended periods, and fly backwards, sideways or up and down. Although small and fragile looking, hummingbirds defend their territories very aggressively. It’s not unusual to see hummingbird fights almost daily.
Ruby-throats winter in southern Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Central America as far south as Panama. They have been reported crossing the Gulf of Mexico non-stop during their migrations. Just considering the amazing length of their migrations is awesome to me, making the little power house one of my favorite birds. By October most of the hummingbirds will be on their way south, with a few stragglers still around, as I have mentioned.

See full article by purchasing the Sept. 14 edition of The Kane Republican.

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