One of the most fascinating animal behaviors can you see in your backyard is the display flight of the male ruby-throated hummingbird.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to witness this fete on a number of occasions. However, until last week I had never observed it three separate times in a matter of a couple of days.
This acrobatic maneuver is unmistakable. The male will repeatedly fly to and fro in a wide U-shaped arc. Often the male is so adept at retracing the path of his previous arc it appears he is coursing along an unseen track.
At times, the bottom of the arc brings the male so close to the head of a perched female you are convinced he is going to collide with her. As he approaches the seemingly unperturbed object of his affection, the buzzing sound created by the air passing through his tail and wing feathers becomes appreciably louder. This dramatic display is designed to convince the female he is a suitable suitor. However, the only time she gives him the time of day is during a handful of days prior to her laying a clutch of two eggs.
After I enjoyed the sight of a male rubythroat engaged in an aerial display, I related the story to my wife. She said she had never been lucky enough to see the display. Remarkably the very next day, while we were both standing on our deck a male suddenly appeared and performed the aerial fete in front of us. In fact, one side of the U-shaped arc was so close to our heads I thought he was going to collide with us.
A couple of days later my daughter was standing on the deck with us when she suddenly exclaimed, “What is that hummingbird doing?” I looked up and could not believe my eyes–a male rubythroat was once again engaged in a display flight.
Observing three ruby-throated hummingbird aerial displays and being able to be with my wife and daughter when they both witnessed their first courtship displays is something I will never forget; this is backyard wildlife watching at its best.
If you are looking for a great way for you and your family to become citizen scientists without leaving your home, take part in the 2019 edition of the Great Christmas Bird Count. All you have to do is record the birds you see in as little as 15 minutes at least once during the four-day count period. This year the Great Backyard Bird Count begins Friday February 15 and runs through Tuesday February 19.
The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada sponsor the count.
The count enables biologists to monitor the status of bird populations in the United State and abroad. These data are also proving invaluable in assessing the impacts of weather and habitat change on bird populations.
The scope of this survey has changed dramatically since its inception in 1998. What was initially a survey conducted in North America, the project has gone global. This past year 214,018 volunteers from more than 100 countries took part in the count.
As you might expect, most of the checklists (108,921) submitted in 2018 were sent in from the United States. However checklists were turned in from countries such as Columbia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Costa Rica, and Mexico to name but a few.
When to checklists were tallied it was determined 6,310 species of birds were seen. Remarkably, these birds represent more than half of the species of birds in the entire world.
Here is the list of the ten species whose names appeared most often on checklists in 2018: northern cardinal (48,956), dark-eyed junco (43,742), mourning dove (43,412), American crow (40,959), blue jay (37,549), downy woodpecker (36,495), house finch (34,766), black-capped chickadee (21,942), and house sparrow (31,884), and European starling (28, 683).
Interestingly, the most numerous species seen last year was the snow goose. Some 4,957,118 of the large white and black waterfowl were sighted.
If you would like to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, the first thing you need to do is decide how many areas you want to survey. It is totally up to you where and how many areas you wish to conduct your count efforts. Most folks simply count the birds they see in their backyards. Others survey several areas. Next, go online and register for this year’s count. I should note the count is free.
The only stipulation is you survey a spot for a minimum of 15 minutes. A count can be conducted at a location only once or every day during the four-day count period.
After you complete a count, you simply submit your data online (birdcount.org). After I submit my data, I like to pull up the map that displays the data collected throughout the state in real-time.
Since you only submit data for the birds you can identify, practically anybody can take part in the survey.
For details concerning how to register and conduct your count(s) visit the Great Backyard Bird Count website.
I sincerely hope you will take part in this year’s count. If you do, you will be birding with a purpose and have a lot of fun along the way.
If you want to learn more about the important relationships that exists between pollinators and plants, you should consider attending the upcoming Bees, Butterflies and Beyond Symposium 2016: Pollinators and Plants.
The symposium will be held September 17, 2016 from 8:30 A.M.-3:00 P.M. at the Atrium in downtown Douglas.
The $30 registration fee includes lunch. Folks wanting to attend the event must register by September 6.
The symposium is sponsored by the Douglas Garden Club, Green Thumb Garden Club, General Coffee State Park, UGA Extension, Douglas-Coffee Chamber of Commerce and Kelly McDonald Photograph.
For more information, go to Google Search and type in Bees, Butterflies and Beyond Symposium 2016: Pollinators and Plants.