SEAR Blog2019-11-22T14:55:55-06:00
807, 2022

Why am I seeing fewer hummingbirds in my yard….

By |July 8th, 2022|Categories: CR Blog|0 Comments

….is the most received question I’ve been asked this season.  It’s a complicated question and not one that has a simple answer.

First, one needs to consider the species of hummingbird. Since each has unique and specific needs and habitats.  For instance those species affected by the ongoing drought and fire, in the West, are most certainly exhibiting lower numbers due to the longevity of these conditions.  Some hummers purely don’t survive these conditions and perish.  And when adult perish reproduction numbers are lower.  Pretty simple math.  If you start with 10, lose 5 and only replace 2 you have a lower number.  Some indicators from the fires and ongoing drought include but are *not limited* to observations we saw last season when adult male rufous hummingbird left breeding grounds earlier and started showing up on migration grounds weeks earlier than usual.  Reports from Alaska this spring reported fewer males returning and in some instance females getting there first.  Is it a trend or just an odd year?  We do know from studies that Allen’s, Rufous and Broad-tailed hummingbird numbers have been on the decline since 1970.(https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-97889-x)

Here in the east *generally* speaking Ruby-throated hummer numbers seem to be ebbing and flowing depending on the location.  Both ends of the spectrum have been reported to me…from seeing none to seeing more than ever.  Some of this ‘loss’ is truly loss which might be due to the unavailability of natural food sources and nesting sights while some can be attributed to folks remembering the hectic time of migration and not remembering from year to year that they don’t have those ‘big’ numbers in June and early July.  For exmple, I had one host home in particular that always had large numbers of hummingbirds.  Then 300+ house were built directly behind their property and numbers fell off significantly.  An obvious disturbance to natural food and nesting sights but some changes can also be subtle and still affect your population.

One of those subtle changes could be as simply as more folks feeding hummingbirds.  We know for a fact that during the COVID lockdown many more people began feeding birds in general.  A simple by-product and explanation for fewer birds at your personal feeder might be due to greater dispersal over a neighborhood or area. For instance if you were the only one on your block feeding and now every other house is doing so, hummers are going to take advantage of the *new* food supply and use all the feeders congregating less at yours.  I’ve witnessed this at many of my host homes over the last 2 years.  What I’m watching,  is if overall these ‘despersed numbers’ continue to drop, stay steady or increase?   Since you can’t truly *declare* a downward trend based on a single yard or group of feeders.

Then there is the larger more disturbing trend – pure loss of habitat both here in the US and on the wintering grounds. It can and does influences numbers and bird survival.  There is also the ever increasing obstacles birds encounter during migration which in and of itself is a perilous journey. We know both are having a huge effect on all other migratory species so why not hummers?

There is also lifespan or longevity to consider.  If a hummingbird’s life span is 3-5 years and within that span of time we have a natural disaster like a hurricane just as birds are arriving on the coast or massive wildfire during breeding time…eventually that one incident will have an affect as the birds reach the end of their natural life and we will see a ‘dip’ in the populaton.  Remember in the natural world whether you’re a hummingbird or a bison you need to at least ‘replace’ yourself year after year for your population to remain steady.

With all this said, we do know specific species are in trouble, are declining.  The more specific their habitat, food needs or migration journey the more they seem to be in ‘trouble’. Luckily for ruby-throats they are considered to be the most adaptable of the hummingbird species. But that doesn’t mean we’re not watching and aren’t concerned.  However we do need to be careful *not* to declare or panic about hummingbird numbers based on observation from just one or two seasons.

Finally, please know that *we* researchers are watching and are taking note and when we truly know something we’ll be sure to report it. In the meantime, keep nectar fresh, feeders clean, plant more flowers native to your specific area and don’t use pesticides. All these things can and will help hummingbirds.

Happy hummingbirding…

1204, 2022

WELCOME BACK RUBY-THROATS!!

By |April 12th, 2022|Categories: CR Blog|0 Comments

They’re back!  Our Ruby-throated hummingbirds are returning as I type.  I personally have had one since April 3rd…pretty much on time for us.  Feeders were up, fresh and waiting for them.

For those who are yet to hang feeders…it’s time.  Time to rinse them out, make that nectar; 4 parts water to 1 part white cane sugar – NO RED DYE and get them hung.  Monitor them, keep then clean and fresh ALL SEASON.

It’s also a good time to work on planning what flowers you’ll be planting and getting those flower beds ready to go.  The weather has been so crazy this year that I’m truly waiting until AFTER 15 April to plant anything new.  Hopefully by then Mother Nature will have made up her mind and spring will truly stick around.

Remember when planning those gardens think “3”.  Flowers that will bloom now, flowers that will bloom in the middle of summer and flowers that will last until 1st frost.  It’s a pollinator’s dream…and you can help make it come true.  Limit or better yet totally do away with pesticides…hummingbirds need protein in the form of soft-bodied insects especially during nesting and baby raising time.

Most of all enjoy your hummingbirds!!

 

2503, 2022

What’s the best hummingbird feeder??

By |March 25th, 2022|Categories: CR Blog|0 Comments

“What’s the best feeder for hummingbirds?”  It’s a question I’m asked all the time.  My usual answer is…’the one you can keep the cleanest’.  But that’s not what folks truly want to know!  Although it is the *most* important feature of any feeder.

After feeding hummingbirds for over 2 decades and visiting hummingbird host homes to band birds for the last 10 years I’ve become quite familiar with all types of feeders both good and bad.  Generally speaking, all feeders with metal bases need to go.  Granted they’re often very pretty with fancy colorful reservoirs but there are a few things wrong with them.  First, their port flowers are usually *not* removeable for cleaning nor does the base doesn’t come apart for cleaning.  Most also have a narrow neck which makes cleaning inside the decorative reservoir difficult. But importantly they will rust over time, often inside first where one cannot see, leeching iron into the nectar. A mineral a hummingbird does not need in abundance and one that will harm them. Then there are the 100s of other hummingbird feeders on the market and instead of listing the ones I do *not* like, I will instead share with you what I look for in feeder.

First, I prefer feeders with the fewest pieces and parts. I look for feeders that have red port flowers that are molded and a part of the base lid. The base should separate in two. I like metal hangers as opposed to plastic ones, as they break.  I prefer to have different sizes of the same feeder for different times of the year since my hummingbird populations vacillate.  This cuts down on nectar waste. Ports holes should be oval or round, not slits.  There have been documented instances of hummingbirds getting their bills caught in slits or even getting injured if hit directly by another ‘incoming’ hummingbird. I avoid them. Why chance it?

Taking all this into consideration there are two companies with two entirely different feeders that I prefer and use.  First Nature and Aspects.  But of the two, if I had to choose one over the other, I’d choose Aspects.  For me it has proven to be the easiest to keep clean, the best for monitoring the quality and clarity of my nectar, comes in multiple sizes and best of all has a lifetime guarantee.  They do cost a bit more than First Nature, and can be hard to find but the quality and guarantee is worth it.

So, there you have it….an actual feeder recommendation.  I know like most things in life we all have our own personal favorites and what works for me may not work for you.  But I’d encourage all of you searching for a ‘new’ feeder to give Aspects a try.

And finally because you can never say it too many time…keep your feeders clean, nectar clear and fresh and please NO RED DYES or NECTARS!

Till next time…

Happy spring migrations and welcome back hummingbirds!

603, 2022

CONGRATULATIONS TO US!

By |March 6th, 2022|Categories: CR Blog|0 Comments

Congratulations to SEAR for receiving a $500 research grant from The Tennessee Ornithological Society for ongoing hummingbird research!!

We appreciate the gift and plan to use it to update some aging equipment.

We look forward to the upcoming season and reporting our findings to the organization and to you!

3112, 2021

Happy New Year!

By |December 31st, 2021|Categories: CR Blog|0 Comments

I often feel a bit in ‘limbo’ the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  The rush, the preparations, the excitement of the big day is all over and you sit around and just sort of ‘waiting’ for New Year’s Eve.  But not this year! This year the week of anticipated ‘limbo’ turned out to be anything but, when two ‘winter’ hummingbirds decided to venture into my world. And as luck would have it, both arrived at locations where hosts ‘knew’ a bit about winter hummingbirds and knew to give me a call.

I’ve spent the week speaking with those hosts, traveling to their locations and ultimately banding what turned out to be two beautiful juvenile male rufous hummingbirds.  Each one a bit different, each one with similar yet different molt patterns, each one with a varying numbers of glowing new orange gorget feathers. Good news, both hummingbirds healthy, in good weight and feisty as this species is known to be.

So, as I prepare to bid farewell to the ‘old’ and ‘welcome’ in the new, I remain humbled and honored to be able to do this important work and am ever thankful for the joy, the smiles, the happy tears and the wonder hummingbirds and hummingbird banding brings to all it touches.

Happy New Year and happy winter hummingbirds to all!

And thanks Dave Magers for the photo of the Shelby Bottoms Rufous….and congrats on the lifer!

312, 2021

A great start to winter hummingbird banding….

By |December 3rd, 2021|Categories: CR Blog|0 Comments

We have had a fantastic start to winter hummingbird banding this 21-22 season.  It started in August with reports of an adult male rufous hummingbird at the home of Mary Lodge.  We ventured over to band him on a hot humid day in August and he along with 39 ruby-throats all got shiny new bands.  A month laster on the 15th of September we heard from Mary Goodenough in Fayetteville who reported her Allen’s hummingbird was BACK!  What a special occurance as this guy certainly has a history with us.  Stay tuned for more about him in the coming months.   October 14th found us banding our first Kentucky western hummer at the home of Dave Roemer, long time birder and friend.   Fifteen days later on the day before Halloween my phone rang and it was host Bill Taylor of Nashville with the news that his female rufous was back for her second winter.  No tricks there but pure treat!  Three weeks later we ventured to Sewanee, TN and banded an adult female rufous at the home of April Sells.  Her hummer even made the local newspaper, The Mountain Messenger.  On November 23rd we made a second attempt to band what turned out to be a wily hatch-year male rufous hummingbird at the home of James Wood.  We’d spend a half day trying to capture this hummer back in October but he chose the blooming pineapple sage over the feeders and my trap.  It was good to finally get a band on him a month after our first attempts. Four days later we had a ‘rare’ two banding day.  We ventured back to Murfreesboro to the home of Kendra Cooper and banded what tuned out to be an adult Black-chinned hummingbird and while there we got another call about a hummingbird in Cannon County. So off we went and captured and banded a hatch-year rufous hummingbird at the home of Penny and David Malone.

We have 3 more ‘known’ western hummers waiting to be banded.  One in Memphis where the salvia is still blooming and the bird isn’t interested in the feeders.  One in Smith County and another in Monroe County.  We hope to get them all banded prior to Christmas.

So, for those keeping ‘score’, we have confirmed 2 second-year return hummingbirds, banded 5 new hummingbirds in two states, and have 3 pending hummers waiting for their bands.  We’ve traveled 1224 miles during the 7 days we actively banded and as always met and visited with our wonderful hummer hosts.

Keep watching, keep speading the word about ‘western winter hummingbirds’ and to anyone hosting a ‘winter’ hummingbird please reach out and let me know if you’re interested in having it banded.  If I’m not licensed in your State I can put you in touch with someone who is and able to come to your home.  Best way to ensure I get your message is to contact me ar routledges@bellsouth.net and put ‘winter hummer’ in the subject line.

Finally A HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL WHO SUPPORT OUR EFFORTS!  We couldn’t do this without your support and of course the hospitality of our wonderful hosts.

Here’s hoping a winter hummingbird stops by your home!

Till next time….

Cyndi

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