Hummer migration

You know I love hummingbirds. I love to see them and I love to photograph them.

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to watch them, at least. I’ve been getting up just before dawn (5:30 MDT) and can see them at a feeder in the garden.

Photographing them has been a little tougher — at that time of the morning, there just isn’t enough light for the camera to gather.

But this morning, some hummers stayed around a little longer, and I got my shots.

Female hummers are really hard to tell apart — they all have green backs and white breasts. I read somewhere that you can tell calliopes because they flip their tails. I haven’t seen that anywhere else, but the tail flip, and her tiny size suggest strongly that this is a calliope hummingbird. Regardless of her species, I think the tail flips are charming.

Female calliope hummingbird on the top of the feeder hook.

For some reason, the hummers have been sitting on the top of the hook this year. I don’t remember them ever doing it before. If this was a female calliope, that means that she is just passing through as she migrates back to central Mexico. That means that this probably isn’t something she has learned from seeing other hummers do it. No idea why they are doing it now and not before.

All hummingbirds can be territorial about good spots to feed. These two females are no exception.

Terrible shot, right? This photo and the one above were taken milliseconds apart.

But the second photo does show exactly how fast these girls can move when they are motivated. You always hear that peregrine falcons are the fastest land animals, but they forget to say that peregrines are diving when they do it, not flapping. Hummers have kept pace with cars going 60 miles per hour (97 kph), and flown backwards at 30 miles per hour (48 kph), flapping all the way. So there.

I expect to see more hummingbirds as they come out of the mountains and head south. That means you’ll see more hummingbird photos soon.

Published by Amy Law

Amy Law is a science geek. She feels about science the way some people feel about music, or art, or sports – a total and complete emotional connection. She thinks in science. For Amy, there’s nothing better than helping people see the beauty of science as she does. She loves to untangle a complicated subject into its parts, explaining it so that anybody can understand what’s happening. Let her show you her world...

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