There is a lot of mystery around what attracts Tennessee's wintering Rufous Hummingbirds to a particular habitat. These habitats are termed "pockets", areas of habitat that are attracting western hummingbirds that are migrating in an easterly direction rather than taking a traditional route south.
Banding is the primary way in which biologists are learning about these migration changes. If you look closely at the image above, you can see the band this hummingbird wears on her right leg.
Mark Armstrong, east Tennessee's Master Bander, identified her as a mature Rufous female when he captured and examined her on December 15th in the Oak Ridge area, just across the Roan County line. She was already wearing a band. Mark reported the band number and location to the Bird Banding Laboratory at Patuxent Wldlife Research Center in Patuxent Maryland. Today, he received the following information:
Species: RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD
Date banded: 12/21/2012
Banding location: ...TALLAHASSEE, LEON COUNTY, FLORIDA, USA
Age: HATCHED IN 2012
In her hatching year winter she migrated to Florida, and in her second year, from late October to this date in December, she has wintered in Tennessee. If you draw a straight line from Oak Ridge, Tennessee to Tallahassee, Florida your line will go due south.
Photo credit: Mark Armstrong
The Birds of North America's most recent range map is shown below. In their non-breeding season, Rufous Hummingbirds are found from northern Mexico to Florida, primarily along coastal areas. But they are also occuring inland in southeastern states in pockets. Not yet shown on the map are the many Rufous Hummingbirds that are being banded during the winter months in Pennsylvania!
There are many unanswered questions, but it is certain, that banding these birds is the only way we will understand their migraton, their foraging habits in the winter, and their survival strategies. If you don't already have a feeder out, put one out! Many of these birds arrive as early as August. Others arrive in December!
In east Tennessee, report sightings to Mark Armstrong (above) at Woodthrush@bellsouth.net or 865-748-2224. For a list of contact information for other eastern areas, visit winter reporting on the Hummer Study Group website or report sightings to Bob and Martha Sargent, Rubythroat@aol.com or 205-681-2888.
Next: More on the three birds banded on Dec 15th and an update on some of the others previously reported.
Bird Banding Laboratory
Birds of North America--I highly recommend subscribing to the online version.
Western Hummingbirds Wintering in Tennessee
Allen's Hummingbird in Tennessee
Rufous Hummer in Knoxville
Other blog posts on Wintering hummingbirds in Tennessee
In recent years, fourteen species of hummingbirds have been documented in the east during fall and winter months. Visit Bob Sargent's information on wintering hummingbirds
Bob Sargent describes the Rufous Hummingbird as very cold-hardy.
Sargent on wintering Calliopes and the Allen's Hummingbird
Hummingbirds in watercolor
Hummingbird art on Vickie's Sketchbook blog
Cornell's All About Birds: Rufous Hummingbirds