Returning to Breeding Territory

February 28, 2020 by Team Journey North

Spring is in the air. Soon, hummingbirds migrating from their winter habitats in Mexico and Central America will arrive along the Gulf Coast states as they make their way further north. It's time to clean feeders and have them ready for these early arrivals. Don't forget to report your hummingbird sightings to Journey North.

“All 3 hummingbirds banded 26 January 2020 were seen today. This is the female Ruby-throated hummingbird.” Photo by: Seth (02/15/2020; New Orleans, LA)

Still Waiting

Excitement is building in areas along the Gulf Coast where the first migrating Ruby-throated hummingbirds are just starting to appear. Males arrive first followed by female Ruby-throated hummingbirds as this selection of reports from Journey North citizen scientists reveal.  

From Spring Branch, TX: When Rodney observed one male Ruby-throated hummingbird in his yard,  he got his feeders out immediately. (02/20/2020) link to report

From Tallahassee, FL: Debra mentioned seeing her first Ruby-throated hummingbird. It was a “chubby male.” (02/22/2020) link to report

From Springfield, LA: Kate finally saw her first Ruby this past Monday. ”I looked in the direction of the sounds, and saw 2 buzzing around one another beneath our oak tree. I put the feeder out 5 minutes ago for them, as they probably need nectar.”(02/24/2020) link to report

A few Rufous hummingbirds have already been observed moving up the Pacific Coast. Journey North observer, Sylvia in California, submitted the earliest sighting to date for Rufous hummingbirds. A few other sightings for Rufous, Anna’s and other species of hummingbirds are slowing lighting up our Journey North maps.  

From Penn Valley, CA: Sylvia noted, “Very early date for a Rufous Hummingbird at this location (Nevada County, California).” (01/31/2020) link to report

From Trinidad, CA: Jim noted his first Rufous sighting also along coast of California. (02/10/2020) link to report

From Hanford, CA: Tom reported ”Returning Anna’s are here with 5 Males and one female today. This is early due to very warm, above normal weather, in Central California. Almonds and Peaches and Apricots already in full bloom.” (02/24/2020) link to report

Still Enjoying Resident Hummers

Journey North citizen scientists continue to report on resident hummingbirds along the Gulf Coast and other more surprising places, such as Idaho. There is even one report of a hummingbird nest with eggs in California. 

From Carlsbad, CA: Maize reports, “Two eggs in a nest in palm tree. Mother hummingbird zipped away so we don’t know the type. This is the second set of eggs…First set of baby hummingbirds matured and flew away.” (02/18/2020) see photo

From Portland, OR: Suzanne reported with relief that an “overwintering Anna’s is alive and well. His favorite lookout spot is the very top of a 30-40 foot tree in the neighbor’s yard which frequent visits front yard camellia shrub (red blossoms).” (02/21/2020) link to report

From Kamiah, ID: Pam  worriedly reported , ”one female since fall…shows up every couple days..very cold here at night.” (02/18/2020) link to report

Along the East and Gulf Coasts, Journey North citizen scientists continue to see resident hummingbirds. These residents have not started their journeys north yet. 

From Kill Devil Hills, NC: Richard reported two Ruby-throated hummingbirds in residence all winter. He was glad that they “never had freezing temperatures or snow.” (02/25/2020) link to report 

From Forest, MS: Elizabeth has reported feeding “a Ruby-throated hummingbird all winter…since October.” (02/21/2020) link to report

Hummingbird Banding

Hummingbird banding is one of the best tools available to learn about the life span, reproductive cycles, and timing and routes of migration. Hummingbird banders have described the effort as like “banding a toothpick.” Becoming a bander takes skill often obtained after years working as an apprentice alongside other banders. In addition, a Federal Bird Banding and Marking Permit is required for those who wish to band hummingbirds which are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Journey North is lucky to have a few members who have shared their banding experiences with our community.  

From New Orleans, LAIn 26 January 2020, Journey North observer, Seth, banded 2 immature Rufous hummingbirds and 1 Ruby-throated hummingbird and color-marked them at his house in New Orleans. Seth continued to observe these hummingbirds over the next few weeks. Seth mentioned that the 2 immature Rufous hummingbirds had arrived sometime in early December 2019 with the female adult Ruby-throat appearing sometime before 26 January 2020. see photos

Your Sightings Are Critical 

There are only about 200 banders in the US licensed to band hummingbirds. So while banding provides critical data, your observational sightings also provide invaluable information that helps us fill in gaps of our understanding. Please continue to report your hummingbird sightings.