Sunday, June 8, 2008

Where are all my hummingbirds?

Every year around this time, I get asked the same question. Where are all my hummingbirds? If I'm feeling silly, I answer "I don't have them!" But this can be a difficult question to answer seriously. Over the past few years that I've been giving talks on hummingbirds at many Audubon meetings, Nature Centers, garden clubs, and others, I have queried the audiences about this. On average, about 15-25% will raise their hands when asked "How many people have fewer hummingbirds than normal?" Then I ask "How many people have more?" Again, the number seems to be about 15-25%. And to the question "How many people have about the same?" the response is from about 50-60%. People who have the same or more rarely ask me why!

I began the Great Lakes HummerNet project, in part, so that I might understand the population cycles of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in Michigan. Most bird species undergo population cycles, and I suspect that hummingbirds are no different. It also seems that centers of abundance may shift from year to year, so that for every location that has less, there is one that has more. This year, in my own yard, I had only seen a single adult male Ruby-throat at my feeders until the thunderstorms came through today when another male, and my first female of the year, was seen. This is extraordinarily late for my first female. And, some of the comments I've been receiving indicate that perhaps some of the declines are more serious than other years. There might be something going on. But, I don't have an answer on that yet.

I would appreciate it if you could share your story about hummingbird numbers this June by either posting your comment to this blog, or sending me an e-mail directly ( Please provide your location as part of your story (Michigan locations only please). I'll compile the results in some manner and post something on it later. In the meantime, you might enjoy a photo taken last week by Bob Anderson, who feeds hummingbirds in Marenisco, Gogebic County, in the far western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My best guess is that there are 65 hummingbirds in this photo, mostly males. If you're missing some hummingbirds this year, I don't have them, but maybe Bob does!


Ross said...

WOW!!! He's got 15 more than us. We've got between 30 and 40 hummers U.P. here, at our farm in Trenary.
Last summer, we had a lot of hummers, too. We blamed it on the drought and there being such a shortage of blooming vegetation and natural nectar sources. So far, we haven't come up with a cause for the abundance of humming birds this year. We have nine nectar feeders and--right up until the recent hot weather hit us and things finally began to blossom--the hummers were going through about a gallon of nectar per day.

Our lilacs are just beginning to bloom. So, we'll be keeping our eyes peeled for those bizarre hummingbird moths.

nancy huggins said...

Wow..That is an awesome photo. I am still waiting in N IL. Maybe it is the weather. I keep reading any info I can to see if there is something I might not be doing right. I guess I will just have to sit and wait and watch..maybe they will be here soon.
Nancy Huggins

Shellmo said...

Amazing to see all those hummingbirds! I've been trying to attract them the past 3 years - no luck! (In Dearborn and in Gaylord, MI.)

Anonymous said...

I live in middle Tennessee and have not seen nearly as many hummers as we normally do around here. I am also wondering if the drought conditions from last summer have anything to do with it. It has been really hot and dry again most of this season but we are now getting into some regular rain patterns. It will be interesting to see if the hummers show up before it is time to migrate again!

Joy in TN

Margaret Cloud said...

Nice post. I don't have humming bird feeders out, I have never been successful in attracting them. Wouldn't you know it we have seen two small ones skimming the yard, but can't see the colors. I was setting out today 9-3-08, and I know I wasn't seeing things I saw what looked like a giant humming bird, is this possiable. We live in Ferrysburg, Michigan, it is between Grand Haven and Muskegon, on the Grand River. I would appreciate it if you know anything about this.

Cheryl Marton said...

We are in the Baldwin area and have seen far fewer hummers this year than ever. It has been noted by friends all around the area too, not just by our home. A friend in North Carolina has noted the same thing, far less hummers. I miss them. Cheryl Marton, Baldwin, MI