Rufous and Sandy

The center of Hurricane Sandy has not even made landfall on the east coast as I write this but it’s already causing major rain, wind, and flooding up and down the eastern seaboard.  Here in northern Vermont we still have some blue in the sky. But we’re bracing for gusts up to 70 miles an hour. After going through Irene just over a year ago, we’re all hoping that Sandy goes easy on us but it’s good to be prepared.

This morning Adrian and I made a final round of the yard, looking for small objects that could turn into projectiles (though Adrian thinks I’m fairly ridiculous for worrying about this). The last things we removed were the hummingbird feeders. Over the weekend, that hummingbird was hanging around again so we wanted to give it as much fuel as we could. Though I have a feeling that may be a futile gesture, since it should have flown south by now.

I wanted to see if it was a ruby-throated hummingbird, as I suspected, or the more unusual Rufous hummingbird, so I spent all afternoon on Saturday perched near the feeder, trying to get a few shots.

Turns out it’s a Rufous! The more experienced birders who read this blog were absolutely right. Thanks Kent and Kyle!

See that rusty color (otherwise known as rufous) on the tail? That’s a giveaway. And its front is a lighter orangey brown color.

The amazing thing about seeing this bird is that it shouldn’t be here. Rufous hummingbirds spend their summers in Western Canada, traveling as far north as Alaska. And in the fall, they migrate south to Mexico along the spine of the Rocky Mountains.

This is from All About Birds, a birding website from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

The Rufous Hummingbird makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world, as measured by body size. At just over 3 inches long, its roughly 3,900-mile movement (one-way) from Alaska to Mexico is equivalent to 78,470,000 body lengths. In comparison, the 13-inch-long Arctic Tern’s one-way flight of about 11,185 mi is only 51,430,000 body lengths.

The website also remarks that the Rufous is the most common western hummingbird to show up in the east. But how? How does a bird get so off course that it winds up at a feeder in northern Vermont? (I bet my birding friends know the answer!)

While I’ve loved seeing the bird, it’s a little sad to see it this late in the season. And with the storm coming I hope it has either found sufficient shelter or dies a quick and painless death rather than a drawn out one over the next few weeks, from starvation or cold.

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8 Responses to Rufous and Sandy

  1. Fascinating photos, Jane – and the best evidence!

    • Lhoidz says:

      Feeding humming birds sastefiis the person’s needs, not the birds’. While I agree that the pictures and the video are truly amazing, I’d say let the birds live the way nature intends them to live, and try to find peace in knowing that your inaction actually saves the birds lives. Please do not offer any commercial options with tourists involving humming birds even if your intentions were pure to begin with. God bless you.

  2. Kent says:

    Very cool. I thought it might be! THis is kind of a big deal. I think it is the 8th record for Vermont. See
    Would you be willing to fill out a VT Bird Record Committee rare bird report? You can find it at Cool sighting!!!!

  3. Thanks Kent. That is very cool. Interesting to note that they’re more frequent these days and that there’s a potential this one could survive the winter. Maybe we’ll keep one feeder up just in case.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Gorgeous photos. I hope Rufous finds shelter as well. Is it terrible that with all this news about Sandy all I’ve been thinking about is the migrating birds?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Awesome photos Jane! And I’m glad your bird got a shoutout on your Fall Migration show. I completely forgot about your Spring hummingbird story.
    One complaint–I nearly ran off the road when Bridget mentioned the peacock migration. Then I realized she said “peak hawk migration”.

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