Western Hummingbird Invasion!

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By Patrick Comins on October 19, 2012, 6:00pm Last modified: October 22, 2012, 8:01pm

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A Rufous Hummingbird that has been visiting a feeder in Chaplin, CT.

There is an invasion underway from the west.  There have been several reports of vagrant western hummingbird species in the northeast this fall, including two Rufous Hummingbirds in Connecticut (Ellington and Chaplin) as well as reports from several eastern states including Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, and even an Allen’s Hummingbird in Kentucky. 

Until quite recently, it was thought that the only species of hummingbird that could be seen in the Northeast was Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but in the last decade or so we have been getting more and more reports of Rufous, Allen’s and Calliope Hummingbirds in the east.   Any hummingbird seen after October 15th should be carefully examined, as it is more likely to be a rare western species than our familiar Ruby-throated Hummingbird.    There have been four species of hummingbirds documented in Connecticut, including Broad-billed, Ruby-throated, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds.  

Some of the western species are surprisingly hardy and can survive temperatures as low as -20F!  So keep your hummingbird feeders up and full.  IT is often said that keeping your feeders up encourages hummingbirds to stay where they shouldn't  but actually our familiar Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have a very strong migratory instinct and unless injured, will migrate south whether there are feeders available or not.  The western vagrants will show up here whether or not there are feeders available and if they don’t happen to find feeders or another food source that can survive cold temperatures they simply won’t survive their expeditionary travels.    If you do get a hummingbird visiting your feeders after October 15th, please let me know by leaving a comment here.   We can get someone out to assist in its identification and to assess whether or not the bird might be injured and in need of rehabilitation.

 

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the Audubon Center at Bent of the River in Southbury in September.

Above, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the Audubon Center at Bent of the River in Southbury in September.

A rare Calliope Hummingbird that stayed in Guilford into December of 2010.

Above, A rare Calliope Hummingbird that stayed in Guilford into December of 2010.

For more information on the phenomenon of western hummingbirds in the east, please see:

http://ebird.org/content/ny/news/western-hummingbirds-in-the-east-set-your-feeders-out

For more of Mark Szantyr’s great hummingbird photos, including much better photos of the Guilford Calliope Hummingbird please see: http://birddog55.zenfolio.com/f1014912169

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Patrick Comins

Town: Meriden, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since September 2012.

Articles: 69

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