Blog stats

Sunday, January 8, 2012

More over-wintering hummingbirds news

Maybe it's just because I have one in my yard, but it seems to me there has been a population explosion of hummingbirds here this winter, and not just the expected Rufous. A friend of mine reported that she had a Rufous and a Ruby-throated in her garden in Clear Lake. I've had other anecdotal reports from readers and "through the grapevine" about such birds. And yesterday, Gary Clark's Nature column in the Houston Chronicle was devoted to a report, with pictures, of a Calliope Hummingbird that is spending the winter at a suburban backyard in The Woodlands, just a few miles from where I live!

The Calliope is the smallest North American hummingbird at just 3.25 inches long. (The Ruby-throat and Rufous are each a half-inch longer which is a lot when you are talking about a bird this small.) It is a bird of the far Northwest in summer, but its migratory wanderings can bring it into our area. The one in The Woodlands, though, may be the first record for Montgomery County and they don't normally spend the winter here but in southern Mexico.

So far, we have had a very mild winter, with only two episodes of temperatures that got into the twenties. This is a stark contrast to our last two winters. The mild weather may account for some of the hummingbird lingerers, which brings up the question, how did they know it was going to be mild?

We have abundant evidence from around the world that birds are changing their ranges due to the warming global climate. Perhaps this is just another instance of that.


  1. What I find interesting is that I have yet to hear or see any geese flying over. Usually they're here in November. Have you noticed any?

  2. I haven't seen any flying over, Cindy, but there were thousands of them at Anahuac NWR when we were there on New Year's Day. Mostly Snow Geese, but some Greater White-fronted Geese as well.

  3. How interesting. I've never seen a Calliope hummer before. There is a local photographer in my area who spotted a broad-tailed hummer in her backyard. Here is the link:

    Good question - How do they know we are in store for a mild winter or is this a case of a changing weather pattern trending towards warm and warmer?

  4. Thanks for the link to the Broad-tailed's pictures, Rambling Wren.

    As for what birds know and how they know it, it's one of Nature's mysteries. There has been a lot of research on the subject, but as far as I know, there has been no definitive answer. Maybe because there isn't one. It may be that avian intelligence is just as complicated as the human kind.

  5. Hi Birdwoman - I, too, have been pleasantly surprised to find an overwintering female hummer sticking around my yard recently. I thought it was a female Ruby Throated HB, but after visiting the hummer page on the Houston Audobon website, an expert there reported that 85% of overwintering HB's in Houston are thought to be female Ruby Throated's, but are actually female Black Chinned. And even after consulting my bird books and the internet, I can't for the life of me differentiate between the two. So I'll call mine a female Ruby-Chinned for now.

  6. LOL - Love it, hollasboy! I understand your difficulty. Those two are very difficult - sometimes impossible - to distinguish in the wild and on the wing.