A male Anna’s Hummingbird displaying on territory in southern California.
A female Allen’s Hummingbird has completed nest building and initiated incubating her 2 egg clutch.
Backyard hummingbird feeders help to sustain wintering hummingbirds in some areas of the Sunbelt.
While most of us are feeling the effects of a polar deep freeze with fingers of cold that reach almost to Mexico, America’s sunbelt birders can still appreciate the sunny sights of hummingbirds, primarily in select areas from southern California to Louisiana. Sugar-water feeders continue to attract a variety of hummingbird species in the Tucson, Arizona, area where one birder shared that Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, Anna’s, and Costa’s Hummingbirds are visiting his backyard feeding station. And Louisiana birders can cumulatively boast 8 species including hundreds of individual birds.
Southern California birders may not have as many species on hand during winter, but they surely have the most abundant populations of resident winter hummingbirds, namely Anna’s and Allen’s Hummingbirds. Not only do these species visit sugar-water feeders and flower gardens in urban, suburban, and rural areas, but they are also already nesting. These species are closely tied to the region’s rainy season that begins in November; and that’s when males of these species begin their flashy display flights and territorial calls from perches, flashing their iridescent gorget that reflects sunlight in dramatic fashion.
By December, female Anna’s Hummingbirds begin nesting, egg laying, and incubation. By now, some females may actually be beginning their second nesting attempt after raising their first nestlings to fledging. And the nesting season for these hummingbirds will extend to June, with some portion of nesting females attempting as many as 3 nesting attempts. By now, female Allen’s Hummingbirds have initiated their first nesting endeavor of the year too.
In addition to SoCal, we’ve already mentioned southern Arizona and Louisiana as wintering hummingbird hotspots, and southern Texas is the other area where hummingbirds can be found in significant numbers throughout the winter months. Buff-breasted Hummingbirds are the primary species found during winter months along coastal areas of Texas, and especially along the southern extent of the state in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
Across much of the southern United States, off-course hummingbirds are documented by astute birders who keep a nectar feeder active, or they re-activate their hummingbird feeder after seeing an unexpected winter hummer. There are many examples of rare bird sightings of hummingbirds each winter, far off-course of their normal winter range.
Among the most impressive rare hummer sightings reported this winter were Broad-billed Hummingbirds in California, an Anna’s Hummingbird in Kansas, a Buff-breasted Hummingbird in Virginia (a First State Record), an Allen’s Hummingbird in Pennsylvania, and a First State Record Allen’s Hummingbird in Wisconsin.
Essentially, most of the considerable numbers of 8 species of hummingbirds documented in Louisiana during the winter months are rare birds found far beyond their normal winter ranges, with the exception of Buff-breasted Hummingbirds.
Louisiana’s Rare Hummingbirds!
Since Thanksgiving, 145 birders – “hummingbird hosts” – have reported more than 1,000 individual hummingbirds this winter, including 8 different species according to Erik Johnson, who keeps exceptional records of winter hummingbirds in the state. To put that high total into perspective, during all of last winter 223 hummers were reported, so this has proved to be a banner year for wintering hummingbirds in southern Louisiana.
The 8 species recorded included Rufous, Black-chinned, Ruby-throated, Buff-bellied, Broad-billed, Allen’s, and Anna’s Hummingbirds – in that order of abundance, although most of the 1,000-plus are Rufous Hummingbirds. That’s an impressive list of hummingbirds, all reported by birders who provide hummingbird feeders with fresh sugar-water nectar throughout the winter to attract and benefit hummingbirds found in the state. It’s a testament to the efforts of the state’s birders, and an example for birders across the Sunbelt to expand upon.
Feeders and Flower Gardens
By providing hummingbird feeders, along with landscaping that includes flowering plants including flowering bushes and trees, and flower gardens we birders provide an added expanse of habitats that hummingbirds can utilize and benefit from through the sunbelt winter, during migrations, and during the nesting season.
Us northern birders can only dream about hummingbirds and other neotropical migrants in our yards at this point, but we can start planning and preparing for the days ahead when have hummingbirds at our nectar feeders – it’s actually only 80 days away at most! Until then, do a little shopping for a new hummingbird feeder in this issues Products section, where 3 primary feeder companies are featured: Wild Birds Unlimited, Perky-Pet, and Duncraft.
To get more information about Louisiana’s varied wintering hummingbirds, you can refer to Erik Johnson’s most recent compilation of Louisiana winter hummingbird sightings at http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1757029&MLID=LA&MLNM=Louisiana
And if you need a hummingbird pick me up, check out the wild action among the Allen’s and Anna’s Hummingbirds at the most active feeding station in southern California provided by the HummingbirdSpot at https://www.hummingbirdspot.com/ and check out their variety of hummingbird merchandise too.
Article and photographs by Paul Konrad
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