Hummingbird Migration Update: April 25, 2002
Today's Report Includes:
Rubythroats: Slow but Steady Wins the Race
A week ago, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds had reached the northern tier of states and crossed into southeastern Canada. In the past two weeks, rubythroats have surged forward. They are farther north, both in the Great Lakes area and in the Northeast, than they were last year at this time, though last year there had been MORE northerly sightings by now. Do you think the earlier very hot, and then recent very cold and rainy (and also snowy) weather affected their migration?
This week's reports add 264 sightingsto the map as the northern tier of states fills out. A hummer observer in Ontario wrote on April 23 when his first rubythroat arrived at the feeders: "Heads up, the hummer wars begin!"
Rufous Hummingbirds Moving Up and In!
Mike also reports a Rufous Hummingbird on eggs from Mt Vernon, Washington. "The bird is using a nest built last year.What makes this especially noteworthy is that the nest was built in a barn on a loop of chain." (Rufous Hummingbirds don't usually build nests on or in human-made structures.) Check out these photos of last year's nestlings at this nest on Mike Patterson's site. Thanks, Mike!
Is it the Flowers, or the Weather?
Mike Patterson is researching the connection between blooming flowers and Rufous Hummingbird migration and nesting. He writes, "In flower news, the Rufous reported in Boise was feeding on Golden Currant. Salmonberry flower density is peaking in canopied areas at Astoria while plants in open areas are nearly finished blooming. Black Twinberry is also in full bloom in many areas." To learn more about Mike's research, see his webpage:
Get Those Hummer Feeders Out!
Make sure to use one quarter cup of sugar per cup of water (dissolve the sugar in the boiling water, and let it cool before adding to your clean feeder). Please don't use food coloring, which has no nutritive value at all and may be harmful. The red parts on your feeder are bright enough to attract hummers. To learn more about feeding hummingbirds, see
Advertising in the Sky: Hummingbird Flight Displays
Every hummingbird owes its existence to its parents coming together to mate and then defending a territory to make sure they'd have enough resources to feed the hummer while it was a nestling and dependent fledgling. Most songbirds attract mates with song and plumage, but hummers do it by dancing in the sky! Their loud wingbeats and dramatic flight patterns are very noticeable, both for other hummingbirds and for humans. What do they do, and how do they do it? Then play a game as you figure the size of a hummingbird's territory. It's all here:
Then come back and send us your answer to:
Not Quite the One And Only: Discussion of Challenge Question #8
If you see a hummer in the eastern half of North America during spring and early summer, it is almost definitely a ruby-throat, but once in a great while a hummer from the west or the tropics finds its way here. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird IS the only species known to breed in the eastern half of the US and most of southern Canada. Last time we asked "Why don't any other species of hummingbirds live in the East?" The answer is unknown, but we can make some educated guesses. One possibliity is that the milder climate along the Western Coast favors the development of more hummingbird flowers and a longer flowering season. A second possibility is that the lack of nectar-rich wildflowers in part of the Midwest has kept Western and eastern hummingbirds separate. (In some areas of the Midwest, there are no hummingbirds at all.) Also, the mountains of Mexico, where many hummers live, are part of chains that extend up through western North America; hummers can mosey on up from Mexico to mountainous regions at least somewhat similar to where they spend the winter. Also, to reach the eastern half of the continent, hummers must either migrate a LOT of miles along the Mexican coastline or fly straight over the Gulf of Mexico--a dangerous crossing. We're probably lucky that even ONE hummingbird species manages to do that! Still, look closely to be sure it's a ruby-throat because several of the western species may wander to the East, especially in the fall.
Hightailing It! Discussion of Challenge Question #9
Holding the tail up helps hold a hummer steady when feeding. Pulling it up suddenly can help the hummer slow down or shift its body downward. Pulling the tail down can help it stop suddenly, or shift its balance to suddenly fly up. Pulling the tail to either side can help it steer. Holding the tail straight helps a hummer to have a perfectly streamlined body for the fastest possible forward flight.
Frequent Flyers: Discussion of Challenge Question #10
We asked this question: "A Ruby-throated Hummingbird fattens up in the Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Then it lights out over the Gulf of Mexico from Campeche. It flies in a straight line to Galveston, Texas. It can't rest or feed while over the Gulf, and it can't soar or glide, so the hummer must beat its wings the whole distance. How many times must the hummingbird flap its wings while crossing the Gulf of Mexico?"
To come up with a reasonable answer, we calculated the distance between Campeche and Galveston as 725 miles, but depending on your map, you may have come up with a slightly different distance. Using our distance, and knowing that hummers fly about 30 miles per hour, we figured that it took the hummer 24.1666 hours to complete the flight. We multiplied this times 75 beats per second times 60 seconds per minute times 60 minutes per hour to get 6,524,999 beats altogether. Any number between 6 and 7 million would be justifiable. No matter what number you got, it represents a LOT of wing beating!
Remember! 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
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
1. Address an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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