Fall Hummingbird Migration Photo Journal
Hummingbird Migration in the Fall is a sight to behold. Before Hurricane Katrina swept through destroying thousands of acres of habitat, it was even more impressive. These days, each week from August through mid October, several hundred hummingbirds (mostly Ruby-Throated) will visit our dozen or more feeders. As the weather gets cooler and the need to fatten up for the trip across the Gulf of Mexico grows stronger, they are more willing to share the feeders.
Fall is also the time when the western species of hummingbirds begin to show up and many stay for the winter. Through the years, our habitat has hosted Rufous, Allens, Calliope, Broad tailed, Black-chinned and Buff-bellied hummingbirds.
It's fun to watch the antics of these tiny birds as they gather to feed before their dangerous trip across the Gulf of Mexico. I selected some of my best photos of hummingbirds in fall and put together a photo journal. I hope you enjoy it.
In late August and September masses of hummingbirds descend upon our habitat here in southeastern Louisiana. Before Hurricane Katrina took down so many trees, as many as a thousand Ruby-throated Hummingbirds would visit our flowers and feeders in any given week. Since Katrina, the numbers are lower, but have been steadily increasing so that now several hundred will spend a few days with us, fattening up for the annual trip south to their wintering grounds. You can hear the chittering and fussing as they try to stake out the best feeders or flowers.
Along with the Ruby-throated hummingbirds, we often see some western species like Rufous, Allens, Broad tailed, Calliope, Buff bellied and Black chinned hummingbirds. These hummers are more colorful than the resident Ruby-throateds. Sometimes one or two of these western species will spend the winter here.
Ruby Throated Hummingbirds
Bright Red Male Ruby-throat
The show actually begins in July, when the local adult males begin to congregate and really guard the feeders.
One of the best hummingbird guides around. It has great photos and information with head, wing and tail shots comparing different species. This is my go-to hummer guide when a new bird arrives in our habitat.
By late August, they look like they are wearing pantaloons because the fat has built up under their skin and it fluffs the feathers up.
These local males depart first and the local more plain looking adult females follow in a few weeks.
Last to go are the immature birds that hatched out that year.
Male Ruby-throated After a Chase
The local birds are soon replaced by a group of birds from just north of us. These birds will stay for a week or so and then head south to another good feeding spot. And so it goes through the fall. This happens all over the United States.
During September numbers increase as the urge to migrate grows stronger. The birds that come through in September probably nest in the northern most states.
We put up a lot of different feeders. As migration progresses, we use larger feeders. Most of our feeders are made by Perky Pet.
Hummingbirds at the Feeders PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
8 oz. Perky Pet
We start fall migration with this size feeder, but soon numbers require more feeders. We place 2-3 of these in groups on each side of the house.
We hang a dozen or more Perky-Pet feeders in the fall. Since they are emptied so quickly, we have a second set clean and ready to provide continuous nectar for the hungry throngs. This is our favorite feeder. We soak the glass bottles for an hour or so in a bleach solution.
Ruby-throat Drinking from Small Red Morning Glory
By mid October only a few immature birds are left. Occasionally a Ruby-throat will spend the entire winter here, but that's not usually what happens.
What You Should Know About Fall Migration
Female Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Often Winter in Louisiana
Most years, when the Ruby-throats thin out in October, one of the western species of hummingbirds (like a Rufous) shows up. Some say that they were here earlier, but we just don't notice them because of all the ruckus that the Ruby-throats make.
You usually hear a Rufous before you see it. Their angry tck call is easy distinguish from the Ruby throat's musical chitters.
Rufous call from Nature Songs North American Bird Sounds.
What is Hummingbird migration like where you live?
In August 2010, an adult female Rufous arrived in our habitat. You can identify her by the rusty-red sides and the red throat patch.
We thought we saw a band on her left leg, but couldn't be sure. She was very skittish and it took several days to even get a halfway decent picture of her and it was on the wrong side to see the band.
During the next few days, I finally got a slightly cloudy picture of her, showing the band on her left leg. This means that, more than likely, she is a returnee.
Rufous Female in Winter
Linda has banded at least 5 different female Rufous in our habitat. In November of 2002, January of 2003, January of 2006, August of 2006 and February of 2010.
I stalked the elusive hummingbird and was able to get some pretty good pictures of her. We are comparing them to photos we took of the others. Sometimes you can identify adult female Rufous by the pattern of their throat patch.
Rufous Females PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
But the only sure way is to read the band number. So far I have only been able to get a partial id. We can make out the numbers 70 on one photo and a possible 2, 3, or 5 on another.
We think that if she is a returnee, the most likely candidate is the one that was banded in August of 2006. It just so happens that the band number of the August, 2006 Rufous female is C25701. You can see it on the record sheet on the August, 2006 bird in the photo above.
The day the photos of the band were taken, the Rufous was being bombarded by multiple adult and immature male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds who were trying to take over the feeder that she had claimed.
Male Ruby Throated
The next day, there was an adult male Ruby throat on her favorite perch, guarding the feeder.
We hope that she just moved around to the other side of the house or to another spot that is not so crowded. We have 11 feeders up on different sides of the house and in the yard, plus many hummingbird flowers. We are monitoring all, hoping for a glimpse of the Rufous.
Hummingbird Migration Explained
A licensed bander visits out habitat to band hummingbirds in fall and winter.
Swarms at a Feeder Near St. Francisville, LA
Feliciana Hummingbird Celebration
Each fall, the National Wildbird Refuge has its annual Hummingbird Festival near St. Francisville, LA. In two locations, Master Banders set traps, capture, band and release many of the thousands of migrating Ruby-throated hummingbirds which move through the Tunica Hills on their way to the Gulf of Mexico. The study focuses on the breeding and migrating Ruby-throated hummingbird population.
Visitors to the HumFest delight in up close views of the tiny winged Jewels. They also have the opportunity to view prime hummer habitat and plantings. Good hummingbird plants are also available for purchase. Admission is free at the site.
Master Bander at Feliciana Festival
© 2010 Yvonne L B