It is nothing short of amazing to consider Rufous Hummingbirds wintering in Tennessee right now with a frigid artic front pushing our temperatures down to 0° degrees F and creating wind chills approaching 10 below zero.
This beautiful Rufous male shown above was captured and banded in Knoxville, Tennessee, by Mark Armstrong on Sunday, January 5th, at the home of Sherry Ladd. Mark was assisted by myself and Billie Cantwell (below), president of the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society. Billie also has a mature male Rufous wintering at her home in Knoxville for the third winter.
The hummer was captured quickly and carefully removed from the trap and placed in a soft net bag. Below, Mark organizes his equipment while Sherry holds the hummingbird briefly and I record the date and time on the data sheet. The temperature was in the low-thirties during this banding visit, which fortunately took place before the record breaking artic air moved into our area.
Photo credit: Billie Cantwell
Below, Mark measures the length of the wing with a digital instrument. He also measures the length of the tail and examines the beak for grooving.
Photo credit: Billie Cantwell
These details and measurements give specific information about the individual bird, help confirm the species and gender, and give clues to the bird's health. Both this mature male and the mature male wintering at Billie's home were found to be of the same weight, a normal weight for a male rufous. Mature males have the characteristic rufous tail, shown below, lacking the white tips of a juvenile.
Bob Sargent, who has studied the eastern migration of Rufous hummingbirds since the late 90's has the following to say about the Rufous species: "Rufous hummingbirds are very cold hardy. They are hatched in a cold climate, they spend nights on nesting grounds where the temperatures are near freezing. They migrate down mountain corridors where the temperatures are cold. Finally, these U.S. Rufous are continually being refined by the genes of cold hardy ancestors that have endured severe winters. We regularly have Rufous in the Southeast that seem little effected by nighttime temperatures of 0 to 20 degrees F. The presence of Rufous going about their daily routine in times of severe cold requires rethinking our impression of hummingbirds in general."
Photo credit: Mark Armstrong
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.
Next: Winter birds and an update on Tennessee's hummingbirds during the extreme cold.
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.