Do You Have "Drifters"? How to Help Winter Hummingbirds

Do You Have "Drifters"? How to Help Winter Hummingbirds

Don't leave your hummingbird friends hangin'! Did you know about the "winter" hummingbirds?

Certified bird banders do. Their banding season peaks in mid-to-late January when the maximum number of hummingbirds are present in various southern states. So, forget the myths that hummingbirds are strictly warm friendly animals - it's obvious these tiny creatures are around all year!

Not everyone will witness hummingbirds in the "winter" months, but some will, and the reason we know this is because folks from across the U.S. call on hummingbird banding experts to report the birds. If you missed our article on how and why hummingbirds are banded you can read the article on our website under Helpful Resources, or simply click this link to be taken right to the article.

Rufous HummingbirdNaturally you can understand why hummingbirds are being reported throughout winter in the southern states – it’s warm there as opposed to the northeast. However, believe it or not several species survive in the eastern U.S. each winter. The most common western species seen is the Rufous Hummingbird, with over 1,000 currently reported annually!

The Rufous species is not the only winter drifter… here are just a few that continue to be spotted all year long.

  • Ruby throat
  • Broad-billed
  • Black-chinned
  • Anna’s
  • Calliope
  • Allen’s
  • Broad-tailed

The best way to increase your chances of spotting one of these winter wonders is to keep your feeder up! Remember to keep it filled with fresh hummingbird food - you should change the nectar every few days. If you are feeling really ambitious keep it up December through February too!

hummingbird feedersNow, before you put your plan into action, let us help you debunk a few myths. Leaving your feeders out will not signal hummingbirds to migrate. Their hormones tell them when it is time, not the presence of food. If they fatten up for migration in fall, and then decide to stay, their hunger instinct will kick in causing them to begin a search for food.

Removing your feeder doesn’t hurt them, but it doesn’t help them either. Keeping your feeder out doesn’t guarantee you’ll see any, but there is a chance you will, and wouldn’t it be great to keep watching these beloved creatures as long as possible?

Do you want to help the bird banders find out more about hummingbirds, and are you are interested in learning more about them? If so, the next time you spot a hummingbird after November 15th here are a few sites that allow you to report your sightings. These sites will also help you to learn more about vagrant hummingbirds.


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