Monday, September 24, 2012

Western Hummer Species Have Reached Tennessee

This beautiful male Allen's hummingbird is currently in east Tennessee!  
Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell, Knoxville, TN

On November 19th of 2011, Mark Armstrong, Knoxville, TN master bander, banded an immature male Allen's hummingbird in east Tennessee, in Russellville.  That hummer has migrated back to the same area as the beautiful mature male you see in the images above and below.  Reported by his hosts, he was captured again and released on September 23rd, 2012, confirming that he is the same individual that was present last year and in good health.      

This information can only be confirmed through banding research.  As researcher and co-founder of the Hummingbird Study Group, Bob Sargent, states:  The only way to preserve all species of birds for future generations is to know what they require for survival.  The best way to accomplish this is to learn as much about them as possible. Banding is one of the tools in that effort."  
Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell, Knoxville, TN.  Above you see the green head and back of the male Allen's hummingbird.  The bird is held by master bander, Mark Armstrong, of Knoxville, TN while being examined before release.

Allen's Hummingbirds breed in coastal California and their traditional wintering grounds are in northwestern Mexico.  Prior to 1991, an Allen's had never been documented in the five eastern states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee or Mississippi, according to Sargent, and the first documented case occurred in Alabama in 1991. The first recorded Allen's in TN was banded by Bob and Martha Sargent in the Chattanooga area in 1993.  Since that time, eastern residents have been encouraged to leave at least one feeder out after November 15th.  It is now known that these western migrants, the most common of which is the Rufous Hummingbird, can arrive as early as July and August, though they are more difficult to identify midst a steady influx of migrating ruby-throats. 
Photo credit:  Wally Manspeaker, Russellville, TN.  Above and below, the beautiful mature Allen's hummingbird currently visiting east Tennessee feeders at a home near Russellville, TN.

Wintering western hummingbirds do not rely on human-provided nectar sources, but find their own sources of nectar and protein in nature.  The primary reason people are encouraged to leave feeders out in the winter is so we can better document these birds and learn about their survival habits.
Photo credit:  Wally Manspeaker, Russellville, TN

The following report was provided to the Tennessee List-serve on November 19th, 2011 by Mark Armstrong:

"On November 19 I banded a young male Allen's hummingbird at a home near Russellville, Hamblen Co. [TN]....It has been a banner year for wintering hummingbirds this year.  In the eastern TN area I cover I have banded 5 Rufous hummingbirds, the Allen's, a late Ruby-throat and I had a return Rufous that I banded last year.  The Rufous that I've banded have been in Johnson City, south Knoxville, and 3 in Tellico Village, Loudon Co....I'm not the only one seeing a lot of hummingbirds.  Other banders [in] the eastern US are getting record numbers of Rufous as well as Calliope, Broad-tailed, Allen's and Anna's.  If anyone has thought about leaving a feeder out this would be the year to try it."

Clearly, 2012 promises to be a busy year also!

Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell.  Above, Mark Armstrong, in Russellville, TN.  Beside him is the trap apparatus that is used to capture hummingbirds for banding.  The trap door is closed via a connected line after the hummer enters to feed.

Not only do we have this Allen's Hummingbird present in the eastern portion of our state, we also have Rufous Hummingbirds currently being reported in upper east Tennessee and in the Chattanooga area.  These birds are often first identified as immature birds, but as in the case of this Allen's, they frequently return to the same areas while migrating and to the same wintering grounds year after year.

With each season that western breeding hummingbirds are documented in the eastern United States, we learn more about the nature of the species and their migration patterns.  If you live in the east, keep at least one feeder out during fall and winter and check the reference link below for information about who to contact to report a wintering hummingbird in your state.

Links and Resources:

Previous blog posts on western hummingbirds in the east:  wintering hummingbirds
More on hummingbird banding:  hummingbird banding
Sketches of an incubating Allen's Hummingbird

Who to contact if you have a wintering hummingbird
Hummingbird Study Group
Allen's Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Wintering hummingbirds in TN:  Second record of Allen's in TN, The Migrant 2001, The Migrant 1998:  five species of wintering hummingbirds

Next:  back to Alaska!

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