Above, Jean Jackson holds the adult female rufous hummingbird currently spending its winter in her backyard. Below, Jackson’s husband Bryant snaps photos of Jackson re-releasing the hummingbird after being banded. | Submitted

Archived Story

Flying south for the winter

Published 12:29pm Friday, January 4, 2013

Second non-native hummingbird makes visit to Jacksons’ home

A little less than a year after a native West Coast rufous hummingbird made its way to Jean and Bryant Jackson’s home in Alexander City, Jean Jackson noticed a familiar flutter of wings in her backyard.

“They told us last year (after the hummingbird was banded) this one might come back next year, so we were watching,” Jackson said. “When it was time to take the feeders in, I said, ‘I’m going to leave a feeder out, just in case.’ And this one came and stayed.”

But the rufous hummingbird wasn’t the young male bird that lived around the Jacksons’ home last year – this bird was an adult female. And as it has been in the Jacksons’ backyard since early December, the bird will most likely stay for the remainder of the winter.

Jackson said as soon as she spotted the bird, she contacted Mary Wilson of the Hummer/Bird Study Group, who came to the Jacksons’ home to capture, band and release the bird Jan. 2. Wilson also banded the young male rufous hummingbird at the Jacksons’ home last year.

“(Wilson) was thinking it might be the same one, and she was very surprised it was a different one that wasn’t banded,” Jackson said.

Wilson said though rufous hummingbird sightings in winter are becoming more common for the Gulf Coast region, she was surprised a different bird made its way to the same yard.

“They’re very fortunate to have another one come through,” Wilson said.

Wilson said it is not uncommon for the small bird, which is approximately 3 inches in length, to travel extraordinary lengths during its migration.

“A few years ago, a man banded a rufous in Tallahassee in the winter months, and that summer a bander on one of the islands in Western Alaska caught that same bird,” Wilson said. “It gives an idea of how the birds are moving around – it’s pretty amazing.”

Wilson said this is the first rufous hummingbird she has banded in Central Alabama this year but cautioned that there may be more.

“There are winter hummingbirds in Alabama, so do not take your feeders down – that’s an old wives’ tale,” Wilson said. “If we could get people to stop doing that, we would probably see a lot more.”

Tallapoosa County Extension Coordinator Shane Harris agreed that there is “no harm” in leaving hummingbird feeders in yards for the wintertime.

“We ask folks to pay attention in the wintertime and keep hummingbird feeders out for situations like this,” Harris said. “If you don’t have a feeder out there, you’re not going to see them.”

Jackson said she has gone the extra mile to ensure the hummingbird has food, despite recent below-freezing temperatures.

“When it was freezing, I brought my feeder in that night and got up before daylight to put it back out,” Jackson said. “I didn’t want it to have frozen food, and they eat early in the morning.”

In the summertime months, Jackson said she keeps eight hummingbird feeders in her backyard and “can hardly keep them filled up.”

Wilson said anyone who sees a hummingbird during the winter months is welcome to contact her at 256-839-5155 and she will capture and band the bird.

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