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Kootenay Hummingbirds: Wondering Where The Hummers Are

February 15, 2013

Friends of mine returned from Arizona and reported seeing hummingbirds! I like to think of the hummers sunbathing and just waiting to fly back home to feed, nest and chase each other around. What amazing little birds! If you were about 7cm. long and weighed in at under 3 grams, like the Calliope Hummingbird, would you fly all the way from mid British Columbia to Arizona – and back again? Imagine the energy requirements!

hovering Black-chinned Hummingbird male

hovering Black-chinned Hummingbird male

Black-chinned Hummingbird female

Black-chinned Hummingbird female

Hummingbirds can go into torpor on chilly spring and autumn nights and so conserve energy. And they are no slouches as anyone who has ever watched a hummingbird knows. The males seem to be constantly busy chasing other hummingbirds and even House Finches or other birds. More than one female may nest in the territory defended by a single male and males defend feeders from females that will not mate with them. Rufous males fly high and then dive to zoom by perched females at high speed.  Their wings give out a loud “zzzzrrr”-ing as the male “bottoms out” near the female – obviously saying “hey if I can waste all this energy impressing you – then I have terrific energy-producing genes” – or something like that. Their bright “chin” feathers are truly  impressive – from the vivid orange of the Rufous, to the purple of the Black-chinned and the violet banners of the Calliope. The Calliope Hummingbird is named after the merry-go-round calliope. The banners on the hummingbird reminded someone of the colours on the roof of these carnival attractions.  Females are dull coloured in comparison.  But then again, it pays to be cryptic – almost invisible- when sitting on the nest.

Calliope Hummingbird Male

Calliope Hummingbird Male

Calliope female

Calliope female

One of my favourite days  is when I see my first hummingbird of the year. We get three species of hummingbirds here. The Black-chinned Hummingbird is the largest and is at the northern end of its range here. The Rufous Hummingbird is the most common and the most obvious hummingbird and the Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest hummingbird.
Then comes that day in mid-late summer when the young are fledged. Suddenly there are a large number of fat little hummingbirds squabbling over the flowers and feeders. Apparently the young leave last for southern climes.

Rufous Hummingbird female hovering

Rufous Hummingbird female hovering

Rufous Hummingbird male

Rufous Hummingbird male

One day you wake to something missing – there are  no hummingbirds feeding on the flowers or at the feeder. It is still a warm sunny day, but you know that a late summer milestone has arrived.  Another of the  fall migrants has left. The autumn colours  are still a month or so away, but those brilliant little bolts of colour won’t be around until the next spring. I hope that those who live in Arizona are enjoying hosting these amazing birds. I certainly do.

Rufous Hummingbird male flaring his tail feathers

Rufous Hummingbird male flaring his tail feathers

All Photos and Writing on this blog copyright Joanne Siderius 2013

2 Comments
  1. Wonderful post! I love hummingbirds! Unfortunately living in Charlotte, NC, I have to say goodbye to my friends in September and await their return in May. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photographs.

    • I miss them too. But we get to get re-acquainted again every spring – absence makes the heart fonder?

      Cheers

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