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Hummers Heading South

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are only one of about 15 species of hummingbird found within the United States. Besides being the only variety the Eastern half of America enjoys in abundance, the "Ruby" is famous not only for its diminutive size, but for its courage.

Hummingbirds migrate South in late Summer-Fall to follow food sources and habitat, which die out with cold weather in the North. Migration starts with making their way by ones and twos from Canada, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, et al, to the central portion of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast. Ruby-throated Hummers weighing "about a penny" must then fly 5-600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula; hence inland to rainforest for the winter. This includes adolescents.

The amazing flight of this tiny bird from our shores is one of the most astonishing feats in the animal world. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds fly 5-600 miles over open-ocean, non-stop, at night by the moon and the stars, to Mexico. They can’t swim. They weigh 3 grams.

(For small children, who might be frightened by this idea, we hasten to add that there are stories, perhaps belieffulness, of fishing boats’ and American ships’ Captains coming up to the bridge at dawn to look out and find their decks covered with little birds (hitching rides).

Hummers are smart.

Dauntless, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird will repeat this adventure every year in the Spring to return to us. And if he or she stayed in your garden last year, they will head back specifically to you again.

Unlike Sparrows that live a brief 2-3 years, the Hummingbird in your garden, East or West, can live to be 8-11 years old. All things considered, this means when you look out your window next Spring and see these fierce little birds (They’ve also been known to chase crows, bluejays, and even hawks.), you might ponder the thought, that’s not just a little, winged-bird, that’s your grandchild. 

Heading Out...

Gulf Coast,  South-West to Mexico

"Dear Father, hear and bless thy beasts and singing birds
  and guard with tenderness small things that have no words."
                                                            --Emily Dickenson

Photograph of sunset, Richard A. Sutter, M.D.

Next -> Map of where migrating birds go
Back to October Report 2002