HUMMER

Female ruby-throated hummingbirds like this one leave their winter homes several days after the males, but both sexes are being spotted in Monroe County now. (Photo/Terry Johnson)

I

 was among those Monroe Countians that thought chances were excellent that ruby-throated hummingbirds would make an early appearance this year. As it turned out, my hunch was just a pipe dream. Based on the reports I have received so far, it appears our favorite birds arrived later this year than they did in 2019.

Last year Carolyn Perkins made the first sighting. Carolyn saw a hummingbird March 9. This year Judith Geib was the first Monroe Countian to sight a rubythroat.  Judith made her sighting at 3:30 p.m. March 14.  She was unable to discern whether the bird was a male or female. However, two days later she saw a ruby-throated hummingbird drinking nectar at a feeder. 

Nobody else reported a hummer until Debbie Menard spied one March 18. Debbie saw the bird around 7 p.m.

Then I did not receive another a hummingbird report until March 20. On this Friday, birds were seen at the homes of Carolyn Perkins and Grover and Rosanne Tyner.

        The next day four emails arrived reporting the appearances of four separate hummingbirds.  On March 21, birds were seen visiting the backyards of Dottie Henderson, Bill Weaver, Linda Padgett, and Bob Hurley.

Patricia Purser saw her first bird March 22.

The most recent sighting I have received was sent by Maida Evans.  Maida hung up her feeder March 18 and was rewarded with a hummingbird making an appearance March 26.

As expected, with the exception of a female seen March 25 by Debbie Menard, all of the ruby-throated hummingbirds that were positively identified were males. This is because male rubythroats are the first to leave their homes en route to their breeding grounds. Females follow several days later.

To date I have been sent only one report announcing the arrival of a female rubythroat. This bird was seen by Debbie Menard March 25, seven days after a male arrived at her Forsyth home.

I must admit I am jealous of all of the folks that have already greeted a hummingbird to their backyards.  My wife and I have yet to see our first hummingbird of the spring. In fact, we have never had to wait this long to see a ruby-throated hummingbird. We typically see our first hummer March 18. However, last year our first hummer touched down in our backyard March 14. This was the earliest we had ever seen one.

Since the first female has already been seen in Monroe County, if you have yet to spot a hummingbird in your yard, it could be either a female or male.  In fact, each year the first hummer of the year seen by those of us that missed the early wave of migrating males, is often a female.

If you have not been lucky enough to see a hummingbird this spring, do not give up hope.  The ruby-throated hummingbird migration will continue for quite some time. As such, you are more likely to see a migrating hummer in the upcoming weeks than you were in mid March.

If you have been intending to put out a hummingbird feeder, but, for one reason or another, never got around to it, don’t wait any longer. Dust off a hummingbird feeder that you have had stored away since last fall.  Prepare batch of hummingbird food by mixing four parts water to one part sugar, bring the mixture to a rapid boil for 2-3 minutes. Let the fluid cool, pour the sugar-rich fluid into your feeder, and hang it up.

If you don’t, you stand the real chance of seeing a hungry hummingbird hover at the exact spot where you hung a feeder last year. If that happens, you will feel like a heel for not having a nutritious meal ready for a bird that flew 500-600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico, then embarked on a the long journey from the coast to reach your backyard. This is something no fan of this amazing bird wants to experience.

Terry Johnson is retired Program Manager of the Georgia Nongame-Endangered Wildlife Program. He has written the informative column ‘Monroe Outdoors’ for the Reporter for many years. His book, “A Journey to Discovery,” is available at The Reporter. Email him at tjwoodduck@bellsouth.net.