Sunday, December 15th, was a cold and windy day, creating considerable discomfort at times as I accompanied Jane and Mark Armstrong on their travels to band three wintering hummingbirds. Without a doubt, the reward of seeing three of these hardy birds in one day far exceeded the discomforts of early hours and occasional numb fingers.
In the top image you see a mature female Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) with a large number of gorget feathers on her throat and thick feathering on her brow. Directly above, appearing quite different, an immature female is pictured. And below, an immature male Rufous Hummingbird in his first winter season after hatching.
Each of these wintering birds was located in a different county in Tennessee, and captured and examined by Mark Armstrong, east Tennesee's Master Bander of hummingbirds, and assisted by Jane, who helps with the set up and records the data Mark collects.
The morning was overcast and 33 degrees F with 4 mph wind gusts, making sitting still outside for any length of time very cold. After briefly rubbing his hands together to stimulate some warmth, Mark opened the bag to examine the hummingbird that had been visiting Janet and Bob Cushman's feeder in Roan County since approximately October 27th. The couple noticed a difference in this bird that lingered behind after their Ruby-throated Hummingbirds had departed.
During the fall of 1988, Bob and Martha Sargent began studying wintering hummingbirds in Alabama, Georgia, Forida, Mississippi, and Tennessee, compiling reports of these birds, and when possible, banding them. Comparing records from past years, and their compilation of reports from the six winters from 1990 to 1996, in just this five state region, 1,643 Selasphorus hummingbirds were reported (Broad-tailed, Rufous and Allen's species) during winter months, showing a substantial increase in numbers. 95% of those recorded were Rufous Hummingbirds.
Next: Our second stop, a juvenile female
Links and Resources:
Western Hummingbirds Wintering in Tennessee
Allen's Hummingbird in Tennessee
Rufous Hummer in Knoxville
In recent years, fourteen species of hummingbirds have been documented in the east during fall and winter months. In east Tennessee, report sightings to Mark Armstrong at Woodthrush@bellsouth.net or 865-748-2224. For a list of contact information for other eastern areas, visit winter reporting on the Hummer Study Group website or report sightings to Bob and Martha Sargent, Rubythroat@aol.com or 205-681-2888.
Other blog posts on Wintering hummingbirds in Tennessee
Visit Bob Sargent's information on wintering hummingbirds
Bob Sargent describes the Rufous Hummingbird as very cold-hardy.
Sargent on wintering Calliopes and the Allen's Hummingbird
Hummingbirds in watercolor
Hummingbird art on Vickie's Sketchbook blog
Cornell's All About Birds: Rufous Hummingbirds