Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Colorful Holiday Visitor Has Birder Communication Lines Humming

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Colorful Holiday Visitor Has Birder Communication Lines Humming

Article excerpt

Every year, we're told to keep hummingbird feeders out until Christmas. And locally almost every year, a lucky someone - or even several lucky someones - who follow the advice hit the jackpot and host a late hummingbird. OK, let's admit it. There are late hummingbirds, and there are special late hummingbirds.

One of this year's hosts is enjoying a special late hummer - really special. Not only is Pat Keepes hosting a rare rufous hummer, but his is a breathtakingly beautiful adult male. Picture a plump hummer that's the allover color of a shiny copper penny - except its throat. And the throat is a vivid iridescent fuchsia that glows as if electrically lit when the sun strikes it just right. What a gorgeous bird!

Late hummers are rare in and of themselves. Each year statewide, Indiana seems to attract - and document - only a half dozen or so late hummers. Most are hatch-year birds; most are females; most are rufous hummingbirds. And most are banded and identified for the record books. So the Keepes' male, hanging out at a heat-taped feeder on Evansville's far West Side, generates a bit more than the usual excitement.

Interestingly, Keepes recalls a November hummer at his feeder last year, too; but by all appearances, it seemed nothing more than a late female ruby-throat. And maybe it was. Various female hummer species look very much alike. But hummers tend to revisit feeders that served them in the past, so it's possible that his late hummer last year was this year's bird in youthful plumage.

We'll never know, of course, but it's fun to speculate.

Meanwhile, Keepes invited a bander to capture and tag his bird. Next year, then, should the bird stop to feed again - perhaps for a third time - he can verify this bird's migration.

Rufous hummingbirds breed as far north as Alaska and typically migrate down the West Coast to winter in Mexico. …

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