A wintering hummingbird was discovered at the home of Christal Pettit early in October. Soon after she had taken her feeders down thinking all the migrating Ruby-throats had left, her husband noticed a hummingbird hovering in an area where a feeder once hung. Krystal quickly made nectar and hung a feeder out and her wintering hummingbird has been steadily present since.
Mark Armstrong, Master Bander of hummingbirds bands the hummingbird and measures its wing, tail, and beak. Each of these measurements give the bander information about the gender and species of the hummingbird, in this case, a mature female Rufous.
Selasphorus species which include the Broad-tailed, Rufous and Allen's hummingbirds. They each have green feathered backs and, usually, a cluster of reddish-orange gorget feathers on their throats. The Rufous species is by far the most commonly found wintering hummingbird in Tennessee and in the eastern United States.
banded in Tallahassee, FL last year as a juvenile. Recapturing a bird after it is banded enables researchers to learn more about the age, health and migration patterns of the hummingbirds that are migrating east for the winter.
Other reports on area hummingbirds varied after the severe weather front moved through. Billie Cantwell and Colin Leonard's male hummingbird, that first began wintering at their home in 2011, continues to frequent their feeder. The above image, taken several days after the severe weather, shows the light arrangement that Billie and Colin hung over the feeder to keep the nectar from freezing. The light is a 150 watt flood light or spot light that is non-LED and gives off heat. When temperatures were in the single digit range, Billie moved the feeder closer to the lamp; when the temperature moves up to 17 F or higher, the feeder is hung farther away.
Above, another female hummingbird continues to winter in Seymour, Tennessee, and was photographed at the feeder by Jon Dempersmier January 8th, the day after the record cold. Though Mark has not recaptured this bird, yet, she wears a band and is likely the Rufous female that he banded at Jon's home last season.
The adult female Rufous, above, that made a fall migration stop-over at Katherine Noblet's home in Johnson City, departed prior to the severe weather and was last seen on December 4th.
The mature male Rufous pictured above has been wintering in Smithville, TN, at the home of Tommy and Virginia Curtis, and was seen frequenting the feeders following the severe front. He departed on January 9th, likely, to resume migration.
The image above was taken on January 6th, in Russellville, TN, as the artic air was approaching with high winds that rocked the feeder and brought windchills of -14 degrees F in east Tennessee. Wally's female Rufous was among the several that were not seen on January 7th, the morning of the lowest temperature drop. Included in this group were Sherry Ladd's mature male Rufous, Candy Casey's adult female Rufous, and Jim Turnblazer's juvenile female Rufous.
"Twenty-five years of banding records tell me that most ADULT Rufous, male or female, tend to leave their primary winter site(s)...between December 15 and January 15. If they leave earlier than that, it is...in my opinion, because their easy supply of tiny bugs and spiders has been diminished. This occurs often when winter deepens.... I would bet the farm that your little cold-hardy female Rufous has gone south and then will turn westward toward her nesting grounds in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia or maybe even SE Alaska. Don't take your feeder down just in case she's hanging out somewhere close, In my opinion she is not likely to be dead but merely moved on to the south or southwest."
In east Tennessee, report winter hummingbird 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.
What is a Polar Vortex?
Climate Change and the Polar Vortex
Western Hummingbirds Wintering in Tennessee
Allen's Hummingbird in Tennessee
Rufous Hummer in Knoxville
Other blog posts on Wintering hummingbirds in Tennessee
In recent years, fourteen species of hummingbirds have been documented in the east during fall and winter months. 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
Bird Banding Laboratory
Birds of North America--I highly recommend subscribing to the online version for detailed descriptions of all North American bird species.