Winter Hummingbird Research
Every winter in the Southeastern U.S., a few individual hummingbirds instead of making the "typical" southward movement to Mexico will fly eastward where they will overwinter somewhere in the Southeastern U.S. More often than not, they are comprised of western species such as Rufous Hummingbirds and Black-chinned Hummingbirds in addition to several other species. Winter hummingbird research has been happening for decades, making us juniors to our mentors and colleagues respectively. Currently, we volunteer our time to help Fred Bassett of Hummingbird Research, Inc. to band as many winter hummingbirds as possible, to help record the current history of these tiny birds and how their migration patterns are shifting.
"Hummer Hosts" help us with this research by reporting hummingbirds that are observed at their feeders between November 15th through March 1st. If you have a hummingbird during this time, please let us know! Either us or another bander will come and band it. We tell folks to keep at least one feeder out during the winter. The feeder does not keep birds from migrating, rather, the feeder is attracting a bird to your house that is already in the area. Most winter hummingbirds appear in the middle of the winter season in December-February.
Hummingbird bands are super small but that does not stop some folks to report bands through photos without us having to recapture the bird. This male Rufous Hummingbird (Below) was reported by someone in Texas in October of 2021. Emma our director banded this bird December 5th in 2020 in Mobile, Alabama.
A female Buff-bellied Hummingbird banded by Emma and Kyle in Foley, Alabama in November 2020. While the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only hummingbird that breeds east of the Mississippi River, we observe other species of hummingbirds in the Southeast, many of which are species normally found in the western U.S.
Hummingbird Bands have one letter and 5 number digits. The bands act like a social security number for birds. Photo credit: Harlan Stewart.
Here is a list of hummingbird banders you can contact in the southeastern US. For a more comprehensive list visit Hummingbird Research, Inc.
Tallahassee FL and southern Georgia
Fred Dietrich- email@example.com or 850-591-7430
Southern Mississippi from I-20 south and the Atlanta, GA area
Emma Rhodes- firstname.lastname@example.org or 251-597-4782
Kyle Shepard- email@example.com or 251-269-6527
All of Alabama and Florida
Fred Bassett- firstname.lastname@example.org or (334) 868-9658
Northern Mississippi from US-82 North and Middle and West Tennessee
Cyndi Routledge- email@example.com or 931-206-3517
Studying Hummingbird Migration
We have several migration sites where we capture and band Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. The data we collect on the hummingbirds include timing of migration and other life histories information including age, sex, weight, fat, and molt data.
On September 26th, 2019, Emma received a call from a birder who lives along Fort Morgan Peninsula, west of Gulf Shores, Alabama. He observed a banded male Ruby-throated coming to his feeder. Emma recaptured the bird (left above) and discovered it had been banded early that year on the bird's breeding grounds in Chesterville, Massachusetts (above right). Data like this allow us to study hummingbirds' life histories.