Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Mon, Jan. 27

Rufous hummingbirds are showing up

The sudden onset of unseasonably warm weather last week seemed to really turn up the burner on migration activity that would normally be weeks away. A word to the wise ­ be on the lookout for spring migrants.

Probably the most notable migration activity currently being witnessed by many is the early arrival of rufous hummingbirds ­ both males and females. For over a week now, I have been receiving regular reports of rufous hummingbird sightings. Additionally, there have been a few reports of black-chinned hummingbirds, and even one report of a Costa's hummingbird.

Any sense of tranquility at your hummingbird feeders is immediately lost when a rufous hummingbird shows up. While your hummingbird feeder has more than enough food for all of the hummingbirds in your yard, rufous hummingbirds will lay claim to your yard, and your feeder, and will vigorously defend the feeder with aerial battles, chases, tail fanning ­ and a lot of chatter. If you could translate the chatter from a male rufous, he would probably be saying something like, "Bring it on!"

It's hard to believe that such a little bird can be such a big bully. What a rufous hummingbird lacks in size is made up in attitude. They are like flying Tasmanian Devils. Don't let the diminutive size (3.75 inches long and weighing in at 3.4 grams) fool you. They may be small, but they are not fragile. These are hardy, tough birds that can endure extreme weather conditions and marathon migrations.

Rufous hummingbirds migrate further than any other hummingbird species in North America. They winter in Mexico and Central America, and breed as far north as Western Canada and Eastern Alaska. In relation to its body length, rufous hummingbirds have the longest migration of any bird in the world.

Rufous humming-birds are an example of a species that neither winters here, nor breeds here, but is considered a "transient species," passing through on their way north in the spring, and passing through again in late summer on their way south.

Male rufous hum-mingbirds arrive first, followed several weeks later by females, and in late summer, by juveniles. You should see rufous hummingbirds at your feeder over the next six weeks or so, and then they will be gone until about July when they start passing through again.

While they can be a pain to have at the feeder, their sheer beauty makes up for a lot of their orneriness. A male rufous in the sunlight is a sight to behold, like a shimmering copper penny on wings.

We have been fielding a lot of phone calls requesting information on what is the correct formula for hummingbird nectar. If you make your own nectar solution, we recommend using four-parts water to one-part sugar.

Additionally, we recommend bringing the mixture to a rolling boil, and not adding any food coloring to the mixture. It's a good idea to mix up extra so you have some chilled in the fridge ready to refill your feeders on an as-needed basis.

Also, it is important to change the nectar solution in your feeder on a regular basis, even if there is still nectar in the feeder. Keep the feeder clean, and the nectar fresh, and you will enjoy the company of one of nature's greatest marvels ­ hummingbirds.

Happy birding.

If you have questions or issues related to wild birds which you would like discussed in future articles, you can submit them to Jay's Bird Barn, 1046 Willow Creek Road, Suite 105, Prescott, Arizona, 86301 or log onto and click on Ask Eric, which will link you with my e-mail address

Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, a backyard wild bird store located in the Safeway/Kmart shopping center on Willow Creek Road. He has been an avid birder for over 40 years.

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