[Tweeters] hummingbird feeders and migration

Dennis Paulson dennispaulson at comcast.net
Fri Oct 14 13:15:55 PDT 2005

Hello again, tweeters.

Anna's Hummingbird is essentially nonmigratory, so if it breeds north 
to BC, it winters north to BC. Birds are great dispersers, and there 
are plenty of records of the species away from the breeding grounds, 
but that happens with most bird species. Anna's has surely spread far 
and wide from its original range in California and SW Oregon because of 
hummingbird feeders that support it. I think these have been more 
important than flowers. We have a lot of hummingbird flowers in our 
yard of many  species, but none of them extends through the winter, and 
I suspect we wouldn't have resident hummers if we didn't have feeders. 
They also feed on small insects, as has been said, but these also get 
very scarce on the colder days of winter. I think only one thing 
supports them at certain times - the feeders.

At the same time, my guess is that if you stopped feeding your hummers 
in winter, they would not have to go far to find other available 
feeders. You might be surprised at how large an area a hummingbird 
covers in its daily foraging. I often see one leave my yard and fly up 
over the nearby trees, heading off into the distance somewhere.

As well as affecting a resident species such as this, I think 
hummingbird feeders have had a profound effect on hummingbird migration 
patterns. Years ago when I was in NW Mexico in September, I couldn't 
believe the number of hummers at the many kinds of hummingbird flowers 
there. All of our migratory western hummers were there. I was just down 
in the same areas last month, and I was shocked at the virtual absence 
of hummers at the same flowers. I speculated that the reason was that 
they were all stopping in Arizona at the thousands (millions?) of 
hummingbird feeders available for them there. Everywhere we went in SE 
Arizona, there were clouds of migrant hummers at feeders. It's become 
one of the spectacles of the "natural" world. My suspicion is that 
these are the birds that were missing from the Mexican flowers, and I 
wondered if we were inadvertently causing the decline of many plant 
species that depended on hummers for pollination! I hope there are 
biologists looking at this. It should be easy to answer the question 
"are migratory hummingbirds staying much later in the Southwest than 
they used to?"

Dennis Paulson
1724 NE 98 St.
Seattle, WA 98115

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