Friday, September 26, 2014

Rufous Hummingbird

For the past week or so, birders flocked to Le Sueur County, 45 miles from us, to see a Rufous Hummingbird at a farmyard bird feeder. Despite giving the bird about a week’s head start, Erika and I were delighted to have it fly up immediately upon our arrival. Our host put out two chairs next to the feeder, and assured us the bird would not mind our proximity. The species’ reputation for being pugnacious was confirmed as it mercilessly drove away local Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. (The odd crosshatching in this photo is the front of our host’s porch screen.)
This record may be Minnesota’s third for an adult male; about a dozen records exist for the species. They nest from Alaska to the Pacific Northwest and winter in Mexico and along our Gulf Coast. In recent year the species has occurred more and more frequently in the southeastern and even northeastern United States. Ornithologists do not know if these records represent an true change in range or if there are just more people feeding hummingbirds. In any event, Rufous Hummingbirds are cold-hearty birds and undertake one of the longest migrations of any hummingbird. Healy and Calder (2006) somewhat humorously write, “After making the longest (measured in body lengths) known avian migration, individuals from Alaskan populations face a short breeding season but the longest day-length seen by any hummingbird.”
Bees swarmed all over the farmyard. The bees put Erika and me at unease as we are both allergic to their stings. We saw bees strike and drive away several of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. We did not see interactions between the bees and the Rufous Hummingbird. In the last photo, the Rufous flipped up its tail, and flew backwards and away from the feeder. After that, the bee moved forward and into the sugar-water. 

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