A hummingbird bander friend of mine (Bruce Peterjohn) in Maryland/Delaware says that this is a very poor year for western wintering hummingbirds in his neck of the woods. This seems to be true in the Charleston area as well. I wonder if all those fall hurricanes and tropical storms had something to do with it?
At any rate - my mother in Charleston also had far fewer than normal hummingbirds this winter. Instead of the usual 8-10 she only had 3, all Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. One adult and one immature male and one that may be a female (lacks any gorget or flecking whatsoever). Last year was the first year in over a decade that she has not had a Selasphorous hummingbird.
Happily all three hummingbirds are still alive and feisty (as is her male Painted Bunting). My mother kept four heated hummingbird feeders and multiple oriole nectar feeders going throughout the freezing weather. Since I recall Gary Phillips and others saying they had observed wintering hummingbirds seeking "midnight snacks" my mother keeps 2 heated feeders available all night just in case.
The four hummingbird feeders she kept out of the weather - hanging under the eaves of the house front and back. All four feeders were kept warm by clamp-on shop lights with heat bulbs in them. Rather than light bulbs, pet stores sell ceramic heat bulbs that emit heat but not light. This is good for keeping a hummingbird feeder warm without causing light pollution that might disturb roosting birds, etc. Sadly heat lamps don't work as well during high winds!
She kept the Oriole feeders thawed by warming the glass bottles before filling with warm sugar water and swapping things every couple of hours during the worst of the cold. She also had to swap jelly that kept freezing, bring in the suet feeder at night, etc.
* Another thing that helped the hummingbirds survive: my mother has Camellia and Sasanqua bushes planted on the south side of her house, and they extend up under the eaves of the house. So between feeding sessions, the hummingbirds were able to get out of the precipitation, somewhat out of the wind, on the south facing side (sunny side) of the house when the weather cleared but the cold persisted.
So between these measures and the slightly warmer temps compared to NC, all the hummingbirds survived.
Nathan Dias - Charleston, SC
On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 2:31 PM, John Fussell <jofuss...> wrote: > I am certain that 3 of the 4 hummingbirds (all Ruby-throateds) I've had in > my yard this winter died this weekend. > > As of Saturday afternoon, I still had all 4 birds, and all seemed normal. > > However, I saw only 2 birds Sunday. I was surprised how little I saw them > feeding. > > Yesterday and today, I've seen only 1 bird. It seems quite feisty. > > I don't live close to anyone who feeds hummers, and I never see my hummers > heading off elsewhere. I am certain that the 3 birds did indeed die. I've > looked for the bodies at sites where I guess the birds roost, but haven't > seen any so far. > > Too bad the balmy weather that's moved in didn't move in about 36 hours > sooner! > > During the several years I've had wintering hummers in my yard, starting in > the winter of 2002-2003, the birds have survived some very challenging > weather, some that was actually worse than the recent weather. I assume the > difference with this episode was its persistence. > > I've heard of other hummingbird mortality in this county, but also about > some birds that have survived. > > I hope others that host hummingbirds will relate their experiences. > > John Fussell > Morehead City, NC > >