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!