Date: 9/22/19 2:43 pm
From: 'George Jett' via Maryland & DC Birding <mdbirding...>
Subject: [MDBirding] FW: Hummingbirds


As we approach the autumnal equinox (September 23) most of us have observed
our breeding Ruby-throated Hummingbird (RTHU) leave the area. They are
heading south to winter in <> Florida,
southern <> Mexico and
<> Central America as far south
as extreme western <> Panama and the
<> West Indies. This is a long
and stressful migration, but RTHU have been doing it for thousands of years.
In order to assist this species make sure your feeders have an extra dose of
sugar in the water.

Why migrate now? RTHU are pollen and insect eaters. As winter approaches
this food source is depleted, and the birds would starve if they stayed.
Also, during the equinox the daylight and night periods are the same. This
equal light darkness situation stimulates chemicals in the RTHU brain that
tells them it is time to go south if you want to survive. They will go
regardless of the fact that the feeder is still out, but they do have some
latitude. If the weather is bad they wait. Southerly breezes are good to
migrate with since it requires less energy to reach the wintering grounds.

My experience is that adult males leave first, followed by adult females,
then the hatch year birds. If you see an adult male after the local
breeders leave it is likely a northern migrant looking for food. Also, the
old wives tail that if you leave the feeder out the birds will not migrate
is not true. It is that brain-chemical thing that promotes migration - not
food source.

The breeders may have gone but please leave out the feeders. Northerly
migrants are heading your way, and the extra feeding along the way is
helpful. I leave my feeders out until at least December. If we have a hard
freeze I bring them at night. I return the feeders predawn since hummers
tend to feed early. Leave air space in the feeder so the food can expand if
very cold and the feeder does not break. RTHU have been documented into

The better reason for leaving the feeders out until December is that is when
historically out-of-range hummingbirds arrive. Maryland has six hummingbird
species on the state list. I have photographed all six species - Allen's,
Anna's, Calliope, Green Violetear, Rufous, as well as the RTHU. These
out-of-range hummers normally show up from late October to late December.
The District of Columbia has a Black-chinned record, and that could be
possible in Maryland. Who knows what other species might visit us. These
birds tend to be sub-adults, but adults out-of-range hummngbirds have also
been recorded. Rufous is an annual visitor, but the other four species have
only one or a handful of records..

If you encounter a late hummingbird (after October 15) please contact me.
If is important that the bird be identified to species in order to
demonstrate range expansion of the non-breeders. Also, place your feeder so
it is easy to see from inside the house. Kitchen and dining room windows
are a good location. This way you have a better chance of seeing any late

If you would like to see some of the the out-of-range hummingbird species
documented in Maryland take a look at my website: There are also some
on page 11. I used banders codes for the website: Allen's = ALHU; Anna's =
ANHU; Calliope = CAHU; Rufous = RUHU.

If anyone wishes to share this note with anyone else please do so.

Enjoy your birds.


George Jett

Lothian, MD

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