2017 marks the fourth spring that the Hilliardton Marsh has targeted Ruby Throated Hummingbirds on their return migration to the north.
This spring we managed to band a record 82 adult hummingbirds between Kerns Public School, The Hilliardton Marsh and our home on Dawson Point. Most of our success came from Kerns’ School of Flock students who took turns giving up their recesses to trap hummingbirds at the feeder just outside the front door of the school. In fact, 52 of our 82 hummingbirds were captured by Kerns’ students, despite the extra hazard of a nesting common grackle just above our hummingbird feeder that constantly let their presence known! The highest number of hummers banded in a single 40-minute sitting was a whopping 14! Who would have thought there would be that many birds feeding at a single feeder?
It is worth noting that we had four hummingbirds return to the school area from previous years, all affectionately named by Kerns students. First on May 31st “Gretzky” and “Queen Bee” visited our feeder originally banded June 10th 2015 and June 16th, 2016 respectively. Then on June 2nd “Wiggles” buzzed by, originally banded June 17th, 2016 and finally on June 9th “Robo-hummer” originally banded on July 13th, 2015 stopped by to say hello, for the 2nd year in a row. At the marsh, HMREC banders had two returning Hummingbirds. The first on May 30th originally banded on August 3rd, 2016 and the second on June 9th originally banded on Aug 16, 2015.
To compare this years’ spring with our 3 previous, the breakdown is as follows: (it is important to note that our first spring we were just getting our feet wet with hummingbird banding)
First banded Hummingbird- May 17th
Last banded Hummingbird- June 13th
First banded hummingbird- May 15th
Last banded hummingbird- June 17th
First banded hummingbird- May 9th
Last banded hummingbird- June 16th
total banded- 60
First banded hummingbird- May 24th
Last banded hummingbird- June 11th
Total banded- 25
When comparing the data, it would seem our returning northern hummingbird populations are doing very well. We are hopeful that we will also see a healthy hatchling population of hummers later in the summer.
People often ask us in the month of July, “What happened to my hummingbirds?” Some people have also noticed that it is only an occasional male hummingbird that stops by for a sip at the feeder. The answer is quite simple. BUGS! During the summer months, the female hummingbirds are busy nesting and feeding their young. The primary diet of hummingbirds during July are tiny insects. So, for now, we just have to wait for those newly hatched hummers to emerge from their tiny nests. Looking ahead, I am curious to see when we will band our first hatching birds. In 2014 we banded our earliest ever hatching-year (HY) hummingbird on July 22nd and last year our first was banded on July 27th. Until then, we will keep our feeders filled, and our ears peeled for the sound of everyone’s favorite buzzing bird!