|This little hummingbird had been working hard to "enrich" his fat cells for his mighty trip south! |
Hummingbirds need to double their weight to make the arduous trip safely.
Our "house-hummers" flew the coop on Thursday, September 17 (it was a sad day). Hummingbirds migrate during the day, and ours must have taken off late in the morning, because we didn't see any the rest of the day, Friday or Saturday, but by Sunday afternoon, a new visitor had moved in (jubilation). He was a small and skittish juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird from the north, dropping in to fuel up for the next leg of his journey. We were used to our house-hummers who didn't mind our comings and goings and would hover inches from my face and hands as I changed the nectar in the feeders, but with our new visitor, if I even blinked, he would fly away. I texted my friend, Cheri, who lives a few houses up, and told her to watch her feeder. Maybe he was on his way to her. Within minutes, Cheri texted back that he was there! Then she would "blink," and he would take off in a huff for our house. Cheri and I texted back and forth that day while he ping-ponged between our feeders (and the huge trumpet honeysuckle vine that grows near our feeders). It was fun being able to predict his arrival. The next day, two more hummers dropped in, then another, then another. We appear to be a refueling and weight-gaining station for hummingbirds from the north as they wing their way south. I will keep my feeders stocked for a while, hoping to wring out the season as along as I can. The chatter of hummingbird-speak makes me happy, and getting to watch (and help out) hummingbirds migrating south is fun.
|...yes, you're such a sweet little ping pong ball with wings!|
I've had three or four friends in the past couple of weeks as me how long they should keep their hummingbird feeders up. They don't want to impede their hummers' departure during fall migration. I always tell them, don't worry, a stocked feeder will not entice a hummingbird to stay longer than it should, but it might help a northern hummer on its flight south. Hummingbirds get itchy and jumpy when its time for them to migrate. They have an inner urge that drives them to leave triggered by the "intensity of daylight." As the days get shorter, hormones are released to increase their appetites so they can gain enough weight for their incredible journey south (from Mexico to Central America, as far south as Panama).
Hummers do not migrate in a flock, but they do fly out on favorable winds, so if there are many on the move, you might see several in a day. They usually fly during the day and sleep at night, except when they cross over the Gulf of Mexico. Hummingbirds fly low over the water, and it can take them 18-22 hours to cross. They can't sleep during this dangerous part of their journey and must have adequate fat reserves to fuel them across. Every time I think of these tiny little power houses winging low over the water my heart melts. Hummers are mighty birds! When hummers stop to rest along their journey, they may stay as short as one day, or as long as two weeks. I didn't know this, but I recently read when hummingbirds migrate, they fly low to the ground, just over treetops, so they can easily find nectar sources.
Click here for hummingbird migration details on the "World of Hummingbirds" website.
Click here for hummingbird FAQs on the "Hummingbird Journey North" website.
Click here for hummingbird migration basics on the "Hummingbirds.net" website.
A nice reference book is "Hummingbirds and Butterflies," by Bill Thompson III and Connie Toops.