Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Those Tiny Jewels of the Airways Are Back, Humming a Happy Tune

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Those Tiny Jewels of the Airways Are Back, Humming a Happy Tune

Article excerpt

Hummingbirds are back. Millions of migrating birds fill spring skies - shorebirds, warblers, vireos, flycatchers, thrushes, tanagers - and among the masses fly those tiny jewels of the air we call hummingbirds. In April and May, birds stream north. Some wintered as far away as Brazil and Argentina. Now instinct drives them relentlessly north. Breeding grounds beckon, each bird supercharged, racing for the best nest site and the strongest mate. This year's seemingly everlasting winter slowed the race, but birds show little restraint.

Males among almost any species generally arrive first, and so it is with hummingbirds returning from Costa Rica. But don't expect that first male to stay - or even the second or third. Generally, the first hummingbirds to arrive are those that have farthest to go. They may be heading beyond our northern borders to an ancestral site still under wraps of snow and ice.

By early May, though, "our" birds arrive, those that visit our feeders repeatedly, sipping sugar-charged energy to supplement the bug-protein diet. They're the ones that nest here.

Be warned, however. Don't expect droves of hummingbirds early on. Not until females produce their first broods in late June will numbers at the feeders increase. And not until females produce their second broods in mid-August will feeder activity skyrocket.

By then, northern breeders, restricted to only one brood by the short season, begin trickling back through here, joining local broods at feeders. Local males, having completed their breeding business, leave; males we see later come from the north.

Next, local females, having finished their family ways, fatten up and leave.

What remains are the hatch-year birds and all the northerly migrants. By the first and second weeks of September, swarms reach their peak. Shortly after peak, the masses leave. …

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