In my October blog I talked about hummingbirds that winter here in Virginia. Although they are rare, a few usually show up, whether they are our familiar Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that didn’t migrate as far south as they should, or whether they are rare western species that migrated in the wrong direction and wound up in Virginia instead of in Mexico.

The Western rarities in particular get birders quite excited, and if a bird is a juvenile or a female and cannot be positively identified by sight alone, a hummingbird bander is usually called upon to band and identify the species. If the owner of the feeder that the hummingbird is frequenting gives the okay, the bird’s location is shared with others, and posted on the local listservs so that others can come see the bird.
So far, this winter has been quite an exciting time for hummingbird enthusiasts, and I want to share some of the love with you all. In October I posted two photos from Mark Mullins (Claytor Lake, Va.) of a Rufous Hummingbird that was coming to his feeder. About a week later, Mark made another amazing discovery at the very same feeder: an adult male Black-chinned Hummingbird! While common in the western states, it is extremely rare in the east, and even more rare is seeing an adult male in definitive plumage. Mark took amazing pictures of this bird (above and below) and gave me permission to post them here. Thanks again, Mark.

On November 20 a female hummingbird started visiting a feeder in Chester, Va. (just west of Hopewell). She was a “Selasphorus” hummingbird, meaning she was either a Rufous or an Allen’s hummingbird; these two western species are almost identical in female or immature plumage, so a bird bander was called to capture, band, examine and release her. He verified that she was an Allen’s Hummingbird, one of only a handful of confirmed Virginia records of this species! I myself drove to Chester twice to see her because I had not seen an Allen’s away from the Pacific coast. I was able to get a decent photo of her on a day when the sun actually shone. The homeowners who are hosting her are maintaining three feeders, and bought warming devices to attach to each of them to keep the sugar water unfrozen. It has been bitterfly cold for the past two weeks, but she has been able to survive because of their extra care and effort.

(Note: As of today, December 15, the homeowner hosting the Allen’s posted on the listserv that the bird is still there today, with the thermometer reading 8 degrees outside!)
Another “Selasphorus” hummingbird was reported to the Virginia Bird Listserv last week by David Shoch (Charlottesville). This one is visiting a feeder in Earlysville. This one is an immature male, and again, it cannot be determined whether he is a Rufous or an Allen’s Hummingbird without closer examination. As you can see from David’s photo, below, he is more colorful than the Selasphorus females. The hummingbird bander will hopefully be able visit the bird and make a determination in the next week or two.

I’ve been told the the Ruby-throated Hummingbird that wintered last year in Sandbridge has returned this year to the same feeder. Birds are built that way; the same bird will often return to precisely the same location year after year, even in cases like this one where the location is outside its species’ normal range.
So, that’s how things are so far this year. I have faithfully maintained my own hummingbird feeder in my Chesapeake yard, and encourage others to do the same. I have had no winter visitors, at least not while I’ve been at home to see them — but, you never know….!

Latest posts by CPL Admin (see all)

3 thoughts on “Update on Winter Hummingbirds

  1. I’m writing from the eastern shore of VA, just a mile or so from the coast. There’s hummingbird at my daughter’s house, feeding in the camellias that are still blooming. She heard it first, and then saw the fluffy blur of the flying bird. So far she hasn’t been able to veryify if it’s a ruby throated or whether it’s male or female. She’s caught a glimps of it every morning, and is wondering if it may actually be living in the protected corner area where the large, tree-like camillia shrub is located. She just moved into this house in December, so doesn’t know how many hummingbirds may be in her yard in the summer.
    We’re putting up a feeder today.
    Is there anything else we can do? Should we contact anyone about this?
    Thank you! paintedstitches

  2. I live in Richmond, VA and had been hosting at least four Ruby-throated hummers this spring/summer/fall. I assume the adult male migrated around the end of August as that was the last time I saw him. An female and two fledglings continued feeding approx every 10 minutes from just before dawn to just after dusk daily. Three weeks ago I arose to a commotion in the dogwood tree where the hummers spent much of their time. A blue jay was flying erratically back & forth and up & down in a fury obviously in pursuit of something. This went on for almost five minutes. Many large birds quickly exited nearby trees when this began. I have seen no hummers in my yard since this incident. I have multiple feeders and many hummingbird-attracting flowering plants. I left the feeders in place and continued to change the nectar but when the hummers disappeared, the bees & wasps took over even though all feeders have bee guards. I took the feeders down this week for that reason alone. I still have many flowering plants blooming but have seen no evidence of any hummers since the blue jay episode. I have a strong suspicion that the blue jay may have killed &/or eaten one or more of the hummers. I do feed other birds as well. My bird feeders had been empty for about 4 days when this occurred.

  3. I live in Chesapeake & spotted a hummingbird on Nov 18. I believe it is a female Ruby Red Throat. She has been back almost everyday since. I had already taken my feeders down, but upon seeing her, quickly made more nectar & enjoyed many hours of watching her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *