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Hummer Migrations

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July 30, 2010 by wcobserver

By Joseph C. Neal

Karl Friar lives down in the southern part of Washington County a few miles north of Devil’s Den. He’s always had hummingbirds around his place, but this year he has none. If you live in that area (say Winslow & anywhere from West Fork south) and did have hummers or didn’t have hummers this year, he’d like to hear from you. His phone number is 530-3818, or you can contact him through email: karl@karlfriar.com.

I talked with him on the phone but didn’t have any answers for him. There certainly are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds around this year. Wonder of wonders, I’ve even been buzzed by one in my yard, where I have no feeders. Maybe they are attracted to the big, reddish flowers on the trumpet vines that are taking over my yard?

Hummingbirds are ALWAYS a lively source of entertainment on the Birds of Arkansas online discussion list. Posts to the list come from throughout Arkansas and even from other states. Some folks, like Karl, have no hummers while others, unlike Karl, can’t make the batches of sugar water fast enough to keep up with the hungry hordes. Sometimes hummer affectionadios are jilted by hummers that pass them & instead crowd around feeders down the road.

The hummers that nest in northwest Arkansas are Ruby-throated. I have heard reports of arrivals occasionally in late March, but the only for-sure records I have indicate first spring migrants during the second week in April. Birds that are going to remain for the summer sometimes begin to nest by late April and nests are sometimes active into late July or early August. By this latter period, there are many migrants around northwest Arkansas – usually starting around mid-July. The big peak in migration occurs during September and most hummers are gone from the Ozarks by the end of the month. A few birds linger into October.

As we get cool weather in fall, it’s possible that the hummer seen may be a different species. We do sometimes see Rufous Hummingbird, which nests in the far west, but sometimes strays into our area and may even remain through the winter. There was a Rufous at Ann Johnson’s feeder in West Fork for more than a year!

While I’m at it, let me opine here that it is perfectly OK to leave your feeders out in the fall, past the typical September departure of Ruby-throats. Your feeders will not keep your hummers from heading south. Keeping the feeder out may allow you to attract a different species. Take the feeder down when you are sick of messing with it.

So, I haven’t helped Karl Friar figure-out what has become of his hummers. Maybe you can. Go ahead and give him a call. If this (late) fall or winter you get a hummer that isn’t Ruby-throated, give me a call!

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