Bird activity before Sunday’s storm
On Sunday afternoon, a few hours before the snow started falling, I noticed a single hummingbird on the one remaining hummingbird feeder I have in my backyard. This was the first time I had seen a hummingbird on the feeder for several weeks. I slowly approached the sliding glass door to get a better look, when suddenly a second hummingbird flew to the feeder and scared off the first hummer. I was so surprised to discover there were still two hummingbirds in my yard!
Needless to say, I felt sorry for the hummingbirds, so I quickly made a fresh batch of sugar water and brought the feeder in to clean and refill. It was just a few hours later and the feeder was completely covered with snow. At this point it was nearly dark, so I brought the feeder in for the balance of the night. Then, early Monday morning, just as it was starting to get light, I put the feeder back out.
Over the years, I have heard from some of our customers how they have one or two hummingbirds that winter over. I have never had this experience before. It looks as if I will have a new routine for the foreseeable future of bringing in the feeder at night and putting it back out before I go to work the next morning.
If you still have a hummingbird that is hanging around, I encourage you to get into the same routine. If you don’t bring in the feeder at night, it will become a solid ice cube by morning, which won’t benefit a hungry hummingbird. When hummingbirds come to the feeder first thing in the morning, they are desperate to drink as they need the caloric benefit of sugar water to maintain their metabolism.
Some of our customers who have a hummingbird wintering over actually maintain two feeders during the winter months. They leave one indoors where the sugar water will be room temperature, and they swap it out with the outdoor feeder. This is especially helpful on days when we experience snow during the day or when the temperature remains below freezing during the day, making it necessary to swap the feeders out every few hours. Thank heavens hummingbirds sleep at night so you can get a break!
Also on Sunday, before it started snowing, I had a small flock of Gambel’s quail in the yard. This is a species I don’t normally see in my yard in the winter time. They were taking full advantage of the millet I throw down onto the ground for the ground-feeding birds, such as spotted towhee, canyon towhee, white-crowned sparrow, chipping sparrow, dark-eyed junco, and mourning doves.
One of the quail, a female, had a lame foot on which it couldn’t walk. It is remarkable to observe how animals compensate for a handicap and survive in the wild. Quail rely heavily on their ability to run—and run fast. When they sense danger, their first response is to run. Only if the danger is imminent will they take to flight. Hard to image how this particular quail can outrun a predator with only one useable foot—perhaps its first response to danger is to fly.
As a reminder, this evening, Thursday, Dec. 1, is the final Prescott Audubon Society meeting of 2016. The annual potluck and awards program begins at 6 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church located at 630 Park Avenue in Prescott. Hope to see you there.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona – Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds
that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.