Hummingbird Migration Update: February 28, 2002
Migration News: A Few Rufous Record Setters On the Move
Most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are still on their tropical wintering grounds right this minute, enjoying sunny skies, toasty temps, and plenty of food. But the western Rufous Hummingbirds are setting some records. Mike Patterson, who collects data on western sightings of Rufous Hummingbirds for his Cascadia Hummingbird Study, had some exciting news this time! On February 18, 2002, Mike wrote:
Then, on February 25, Mike sent us VERY exciting news!
Journey North participants have also reported rufous hummers in Friendswood and Port Lavaca, Texas! Science Writer Laura Erickson once saw a Rufous Hummingbird in Brownsville Texas during a December cold snap when the temperature dipped to 20 degrees--and it was visiting a place with no feeders! Fortunately, even the hard frost hadn't killed many of the flowers in the garden where it was eating. Rufous Hummingbirds are not common in Texas in winter, but a few of them turn up every year.
Looking for Nectar in All the Wrong Places?
Since all these birds were adult females, how did Bill know they were different individuals? Because he put a tiny band from the US Fish and Wildlife Service on each one when he caught it. To learn how Bill bands hummingbirds and what he learns from his research at Hilton Pond Center, check out our lesson:
Needle in a Haystack: Challenge Question #2
Bill Hilton Jr. has banded over 2500 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Other banders have banded thousands more; yet, not one of these banded ruby-throats has ever been found on its wintering grounds, even though we know where they winter. After seeing what Bill shares in the lesson above, you'll be ready to answer this:
Look at the Rufous Hummingbird data map and think about how cold it sometimes gets in Oregon and British Columbia. How can those early hummers -- the tiniest of all warm blooded animals -- possibly survive when they go to sleep at night?
Fortunately, they have a special adaptation that allows them to survive cold nights: they turn down their body temperatures in a process called torpor. Imagine yourself trying to keep warm on a cold night when your entire body weighs less than two dimes. (Even some insects and worms would even weigh more than you!) Find out all about the terrific adaptation of torpor here, and do a neat experiment with modeling clay, a balance, a thermometer, and a refrigerator:
Turning to Torpor: Challenge Question #3
Hummingbirds are some of the strongest flyers in the world, and both Rufous and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are good at migrating. But both species go into torpor at night, even in the middle of summer! Even hummingbirds living in the Central and South American tropics go into torpor. Think about this and what you learned in the Torpor Lesson as you answer:
A Couple of Early Birds That Don't Want Worms!
Two Journey North participants have already reported Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in 2002! One was Van Howard, who saw a ruby-throat in Vancleave, MS, on January 30. For some reason, a few straggler hummingbirds remain in the extreme south during winter. Some are ruby-throats, but oddly, just as likely are some tropical or western species that are called vagrants because individuals appear regularly out of their normal range. Van's bird may well have been a late ruby-throat; he said the bird hasn't been seen since January 30, and since then there have been a few serious cold snaps.Here's another observer who had a good question:
That's tricky! But only a handful of hummers winter in Florida, and when they visit a feeder regularly, their behavior becomes rather predictable. When ruby-throats start migrating to your area from the tropics, you should notice more activity and even chases between birds.
Discussion of Challenge Question #1: Timing is Everything
Students from Ms. Thurber's fifth grade class at Ferrisburgh (Vermont) Central
School did some good reasoning. They said: "The climate is warmer and more mild
on the Western coast of the United States. This means that if the Rufous hummingbirds
arrive in their territory, they would have insects that are around and the plants
are in bloom. This means that Rufous hummingbirds would have good food and shelter.
They use spider webs to build their nests. In the east, we do not have flowers or
insects yet. If the Ruby-throated hummingbird came to their breeding territory, they
would not have nest building materials or food! So they are waiting for spring to
Get Set! Help Track the Migration
1. Report when your Hummingbird feeder is up. As soon as you place your hummingbird feeder outside, report to Journey North. Now you're ready to watch for your first hummers!
2. Report the FIRST Hummingbird you see this spring. Let us know when your Hummingbird safely arrives after its long migration.
If you have any questions, contact us: our feedback form
Ask the Expert Opens March 1
Got a Question for the Expert? Your questions are now being accepted for Hummingbird Expert Lanny Chambers. Send them any time in the next 2 weeks BEFORE the deadline of March 15, 2002 at 5 p.m. (Eastern Time).
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
1. Address an e-mail message to: email@example.com
The Next Hummingbird Migration Update Will Be Posted on March 7, 2002 (migration data only).
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