GEORGIA’S SECOND HUMMINGBIRD SEASON

the-thanksgiving-hummingbird

Georgia has two hummingbird seasons. We are all familiar with the traditional hummingbird season. This season runs from middle of March through October. The second (also called the winter hummingbird season) extends from November to mid March.

The traditional hummingbird season is ruled by the ruby-throated hummingbird; it is the only hummingbird known to nest east of the Mississippi River. During this season, hummingbirds are more abundant than they are at any other time of the year.

The vast majority of these birds leave the state well before the end of October. However, a smattering of rubythroats winter in the Peach State.

During the second hummingbird season, the most common hummingbird seen in Georgia is the rufous. This hardy bird breeds from in the Pacific Northwest northward to southern Alaska. In spite of the fact that it primarily winters in Mexico, each year untold numbers winter in Georgia. It is estimated that as many as fifty to one hundred rufous hummingbirds annually winter here.

In addition to the rufous and an occasional ruby-throated hummingbird, nine other species of hummingbirds are confirmed winter visitors. This list of feathery sojourners includes the Allen’s, black-chinned, broad-billed, broad-tailed, calliope, Anna’s, magnificent, buff-belled, and green-breasted mango.

If you would like to try to attract one of these unusual hummingbirds to your yard, here are a few tips that you will find helpful.

  • Maintain at least feeder in your yard throughout the winter.
  • Do not fill the feeder up to the brim with sugar water.  Instead keep it only one-third to one-half full. Since winter temperatures are much cooler than they are during the spring and summer, you will not need to change the nectar as often as you do during the warmer months.
  • If the weather forecast calls for temperatures to plummet below 25˚F, bring your feeder inside. This will prevent the fluid from freezing and breaking the feeder. Once the temperature rises above freezing again, put it back outside.
  • Some fortunate individuals are successful in attracting a winter hummingbird on their first attempt. Others, like my wife and I, went years before a wintering hummingbird showed up in our yard. Since then we have hosted wintering hummingbirds several times.   The point I am trying to make is to not become discouraged, if at first you do not succeed.
  • Keep an eye out for a hummingbird throughout the entire winter. A wintering hummingbird can show up any time from August into March. Wintering hummingbirds move around a lot during their stay with us. Sometimes they will stay for a day or two, then take off, and eventually show up later in another yard fifty miles away. Others remain in the same backyard until the end of winter.

As you might expect, even folks that have previously hosted wintering hummingbirds are not successful every year. For example, last year we did not see a single wintering hummingbird. However, this year we spotted one just before we sat down to Thanksgiving dinner. The seemingly magical appearance of this bird made our holiday celebration a truly extra special event.

If you have never tried to attract a wintering hummingbird, why not try it this year. Chances are you will not be lucky enough to see one. However, if you do, you will be able to experience the rare opportunity of enjoying a hummingbird’s beauty during the bleakest days of the year.

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