Where Did My Hummingbirds Go?

As I watch my fellow birders post their most gorgeous hummingbird pictures on Facebook, I’m disappointed that I haven’t seen any in my backyard in Houston, Texas. This is a surprise especially because hummingbirds are the second largest bird family in the world, with 18 of the world’s 320 species right here in the United States.  In Texas, birdwatchers can regularly view 9 hummingbird species along with 6 more that visit the state infrequently.  So, why haven’t I seen them yet in my yard?

Here’s why…

The SPRING MIGRATION can be hard on hummingbirds as they move north from their winter homes in southern Mexico and Central America. Stops along the way may be for only a few minutes, or a few days at locations with abundant food supplies. First arrivals in the spring can be seen in Texas, Louisiana, and other sites along the Gulf Coast in late January to mid-March.

Well, that explains a lot! I wasn’t ready for hummingbirds that early in the year, so they didn’t stop at my house for food. I didn’t have any out for them. Sigh. My loss.

The FALL MIGRATION takes place in August and September, when hummingbirds are moving south to refuel in the early morning so they can travel midday and forage again in the later afternoon.

So, I missed the spring migration, and I’m early for the summer activity. Hmm.  I’m in between the seasons here in Houston.  And, that gives me time to gear up in supplies and be ready for the migration peak in September.  In fact, I remember last year seeing a few stragglers well into October.

And, they may be a little early this year, as my husband and I spent a few days in Rio Rancho, New Mexico last week and the hummingbird feeders strategically placed throughout the resort we stayed at were well attended!

DSC_0188The black-chinned hummingbirds featured here are exceptionally widespread, from deserts to mountain forests. And while many winter along the Gulf Coast, this little guy is a habitat generalist, found in lowland deserts and mountainous forests, in addition to natural habitats and very urbanized areas adorned with tall trees and flowering shrubs and vines.DSC_0196

They can be observed along good stretches of some Southern Arizona and New Mexico rivers, where nests are often spotted every 100 meters or so. In the Southwest, they are most common in canyons and along rivers. In arid areas, you can find them near cottonwood, sycamore, willow, and oak trees. Considered the most adaptable of all hummingbird species, individuals rarely remain longer than one day at a feeder during migration, event when food is scarce.

And, did you know? The oldest known black-chinned hummer was a female, at least 11 years and 2 months old, when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Texas.

Impressive. Everyone say it together, “Wow.”

 

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