Column: Monsoon season marks beginning of hummingbird season
The arrival of our summer monsoon rains this past week also marked the beginning of “hummingbird season.” While that thought may seem a little odd, there really is a season when there is more hummingbird activity than any other time of year—and it coincides with our monsoon season.
In winter we have the dark eyed juncos and white crowned sparrows. In spring we have the lazuli buntings, tanagers, and orioles. But our summers belong to the hummingbirds. From now until the first part of September, hummingbird numbers will be going up, up and up every week.
Shortly after the longest day of the year, our long-awaited summer rains start. Right behind the rains comes the return of the rufous hummingbirds, those tiny flying tyrants weighing in at 3.4 grams! Hard to believe so much feistiness can come in such a small package. In spite of their small size, rufous hummingbirds pack a punch. They have attitude.
Each year they start showing up during the last week of June and the first week of July. Already this week, I have seen several. In fact, I’ve observed Anna’s, black-chinned and rufous hummingbirds at the feeder—all at the same time.
What is amazing is that when we start seeing rufous hummingbirds, you know that “fall” migration is already underway, even though it is only the first week of July. These flying marvels are already making their way south, back to Mexico and Central America. They will winter there before returning next spring as they pass through our area on their way north—going as far north as western Canada and Alaska.
Rufous hummingbirds are the farthest north breeding hummingbird species in the world. Their distribution and range following breeding (post-breeding dispersal) is quite remarkable too. While rufous hummingbirds are a “western” bird, it has been well documented that rufous hummingbirds heading south have shown up in all kinds of random places east of the Mississippi, more so than any other western hummingbird species.
If you feed hummingbirds, you know that when the rufous arrive they tend to stir things up at the feeders. They are bullies in every sense of the word, and try to lay claim to hummingbird feeders that were previously being enjoyed by our summer breeding residents—Anna’s, black-chinned, and at higher elevations, broad-tailed hummingbirds.
Looking for a way to calm the chaos of hummingbird wars? Put up more feeders. Put up a lot more feeders! As crazy as it sounds, the more feeders you put out in close proximity to one another, the more difficult it is for any one hummingbird to guard all of the feeders simultaneously.
Do you find yourself fascinated by hummingbirds? Then I have the perfect event for you! Coming up at the end of the month is the fifth annual Hummingbird Festival in Sedona at the Red Rock High School auditorium. Once again, world-class hummingbird experts will be coming to share their knowledge and passion about hummingbirds.
There will be bird walks with a special emphasis on hummingbirds, hummingbird banding and the opportunity to tour private yards that are landscaped to attract hummingbirds, as well as workshops, seminars and the hummingbird market where you can purchase “all things hummingbird.” For more information visit the festival website at http://www.SedonaHummingbirdFestival.com.
The date for this year’s festival is July 29 through 31. Registration and tickets are required for most of the events, so I strongly encourage you to go online right away since the festival is just around the corner. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the hummingbirds in your yard.
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.