“Fall” migration is already underway even though it is only July! It was several weeks ago that Rufous hummingbirds started showing up throughout the Central Highlands of Arizona. If you are not seeing them in your yard, a good place to observe them is at the feeders at the Lynx Lake Café. You can enjoy dining while watching the hummingbird activity right outside the window.
Bird migration is a fascinating topic, and volumes have been written on the subject. There are many examples of species that cover incredible distances – such as arctic terns, which travel each year from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again. The flight one-way covers a distance of approximately 11,000 miles!
While Rufous hummingbirds do not migrate as far as terns, in terms of total miles, they travel the longest relative distance – based on body length. To calculate the distance traveled in relation to body length, one simply divides the length of the bird into the distance it migrates. This exercise puts migration into perspective. “The Sibley Guide to Birds” shows Rufous hummingbirds as being on average 3.75 inches in length.
Rufous hummingbirds breed as far north as Alaska and winter as far south as Central America. As they travel between their summer and their winter ranges, they pass through the intermountain west to get from point A to point B. Rufous hummingbirds do not breed in
Arizona; they just pass through.
In spite of their tiny size, Rufous hummingbirds are probably one of the feistiest wild birds you will encounter in your backyard. I frequently refer to them as the Tasmanian devils of the bird world. When they arrive, they quickly disrupt any semblance of harmony as they try to lay claim to the hummingbird feeders. Fortunately, they don’t stick around too long – they refuel and continue on their way.
Many people have the perception that hummingbirds are delicate and fragile, but this is far from the truth. In addition to migrating incredible distances, they can endure very challenging conditions. Think of our Anna’s hummingbirds that winter-over in spite of sub-zero temperatures.
On another subject, several months ago I wrote about the discovery of an active Swainson’s hawk nest in Prescott near Ruth Street. I have been anxiously awaiting the time when I could see fledglings in the nest. Last week I received an email from a customer with a picture of a baby hawk in the nest.
This past Friday my wife and I used a tripod and a spotting scope from the store and were able to a good look at
the fledgling. It is getting big – it is fully feathered and looks great!
I anticipate that it will leave the nest within the next two weeks.
We see the two parents daily here at the bird store. Yesterday both adults were perched in trees behind the store in the Arizona Pioneers Cemetery. Both birds were vocalizing, which was interesting to hear, as hawks are typically not very vocal.
I am amazed how birds of prey find enough food every day, not only for themselves, but also for their young. The location that these birds chose for their nest site is fascinating, as it is in an incredibly busy area adjacent to churches, Prescott High School, the YMCA, YRMC and shopping centers. Apparently, there is enough food available right in the middle of this urban setting.