This morning I helped trap hummingbirds for banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park in east Tennessee where local Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are preparing for migration and others are stopping to feed enroute to their wintering grounds in Central America and Southern Mexico. At the same time, three hurricanes are churning in the south Atlantic, and as I write, hurricane Irma, originally a category 5 hurricane that has devastated many islands in the Carribean, is barreling down on Florida.
Knowing that Ruby-throated hummingbird migration is in full swing, I have wondered how these hurricanes have affected their migration. I asked my friend and east Tennessee hummingbird expert, Mark Armstrong, to share what he knew about storm affects on migration. He answered with these comments:
"Unfortunately I don’t know much about their [hummingbird] survival in a storm. I’ve heard of birds making landfall on the fringes of other storms and arriving thin and exhausted. I’ve also read that migration from an evolutionary standpoint is actually across a broad front and a prolonged period so that some part of the population may be affected by adverse weather the majority will not be and survive. I also keep thinking about Dr. Buehler’s Golden-winged warblers. They were at their breeding territories, left when tornados were heading their way, some went to the Gulf coast and one went back to Cuba. Then they returned to breeding territories after the threat passed. That is amazing and we really don’t know what birds may be perceiving and if they are capable of moving away from a danger like a hurricane. Any small bird I can’t imagine would survive a direct hit from a storm with extremely high winds."
Mark Armstrong at Woodthrush@bellsouth.net or 865-748-2224.
Photo credit for banding images: Mark Armstrong
Why do we band hummingbirds?
Mark Armstrong and banding at Seven Islands
Wintering Hummingbirds in Tennessee
Seven Islands State Birding Park