Very Own Hummers?
We've noticed something interesting in your reports over the
years. Many of you say things like this: "This hummer was
one of 'ours' because he hovered everywhere that a feeder hung
last year." Do hummingbirds really return to the same spot
each spring? If you were a tiny hummer, how could you find one
tiny feeder on a thousand mile journey? Read on!
They Do Return!
Ruby-throated hummingbirds live surprisingly long lives for
such tiny creatures with a long and difficult migration. One
banded rubythroat was recorded surviving at least 9 years. But
most live about 3 or 4 years.
Our observers were right. Most of these birds DO return to the
same feeders or gardens to breed year after year. What's more,
they often stop
at the same spots along the way and arrive on
the same date! Not bad for birds with brains no bigger than
a grain of rice.
Professional banders working for many years figured this out
by gathering data over time. They began to notice banded birds
showing up at the same sites year after year.
The real puzzle is HOW these creatures of habit 1.) remember
where they had a great meal 8 months earlier, and then, 2.)
navigate right to that spot. What do you think?
Scientists are still baffled about exactly how hummers home
in on home. (After all, the birds are too small to track with
transmitters.) But they conduct research on other birds, and
review other scientists' findings. The conclusion: Hummingbirds
have a mixed bag of tricks! They migrate by instinct, but their
bodies and the environment help them steer course. Scientists
think that hummingbirds may do these things: