A Good South Wind

By , March 26, 2016

We hadn’t given much thought yet to the arrival of hummingbirds for the summer (see Hummingbird Homecoming) until we heard local naturalist, Pam Randles, talking about bird migration on the local radio station. She said that, according to the most up-to-date tracking, the rufous hummingbirds are amassing near Canada’s Vancouver Island, readying for the trip north.

They are waiting, she said, for a good south wind to ride up the coast of Alaska. When they get one, they’ll arrive in about three days.

The feeders are ready for when guests arrive (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The feeders are ready for when guests arrive (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Many people believe a rumor that hummingbirds nestle into the back feathers of Canada geese to ride them north, as they arrive at roughly the same time. Ms. Randles joined a growing, but probably doomed, chorus of voices saying this is not true.

I forget his name, but I once heard an official with Alaska Fish & Game admit on a Juneau station that he had started the rumor. He told the story to friends as a joke, and it got quickly out of hand. It’s just too good to not be true, even though it isn’t.

Anyway, when I got up in the middle of the night Friday, the wind blew from the north, but a southerly swell crashed against our rocks. That meant the south wind built somewhere south of us, and would soon arrive. When I went back to bed, I mentioned it to Michelle. When we got up in the morning, she cleaned and filled the hummingbird feeders, and hung them in our usual places in the dooryard.

We figure the hummingbirds might arrive within the next three days. Likely, by the time they get here, they could use a drink.

6 Responses to “A Good South Wind”

  1. Jon Marshall says:

    I love hummingbirds. We hung up a feeder last year and it was hummingbird central for about 10 days. But all of a sudden they were gone. Did not hear any or see any at all the rest of the summer. Not sure it was the nectar or something else unseen.

    I am sure they will love getting a drink at your place.

    Happy Easter

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Jon, if I may butt source for a moment…. I’m guessing you’re either on a major migration route, or you don’t have prime hummingbird nesting terrain right around your home. Or, your feeder just can’t compete with the flowers around you?

    They go nuts here, the males fight and do their mating dance, mate, then they clear out, but a lot of females nest in our trees right around the cabin. The fledglings eventually learn to fly, try out their own aggressive moves on each other, and then head south later in the summer.

  3. Jon Marshall says:

    I am not sure what is going on with the hummingbirds. Because across the street at my Grandparents old house, they had them all the time. 10 to 20 at a time at all times of the day. We are seriously one hundred feet across the street and nothing after about 10 days. I am sure it could be a learned passed down generational habit and that they were used to the 30 plus years of nectar from my Grandparents.

    You are truly blessed to have that happen in and around your area. That is great. I could watch them all day.

  4. Molly says:

    We have a year round population of Anna’s hummingbirds that we feed here in Seattle. They are a constant in the winter and we have to be really careful to keep their nectar from freezing in a cold snap. In the spring they have a lot more options about them so that we don’t have them around as much. One thing to consider is the fact that the nectar can ferment, especially in warmer weather. Sometimes it is necessary to change the nectar every week in the summer. For such beautiful birds, they sure are fearsome in nature. They will dive bomb us in our own yard. Sometimes when they want food they will hover at the window or right in front of our faces as if to ask us to feed them.
    I saw a video, once, of someone in Alaska that was feeding the Rufus hummingbirds out of their hand. It was incredible. Sure would be an awesome experience.

  5. Mark Zeiger says:

    Molly, someone here once said: “If hummingbirds were as big as ravens, they’d kill us all!” That is so bumpersticker or T-shirt ready! If you search “hummingbird” on the blog, you’ll find plenty of dog fight stories. They’re so fun to watch!

    We apparently get Anna’s hummingbirds in Alaska, too, but it’s hard to say if we’ve ever seen one here. What we used to think were Anna’s turned out to be fledgling rufous.

    Excellent point about the fermentation! We try to change it every few days, because we have so much fermentation and yeast in our home, from wine making, sourdough, and the like. The hummingbirds are aggressive and reckless enough without getting drunk!

    I’ve seen and heard of feeding out of the hand, too. We could likely do that here, as they routinely check us out. I’ve even swatted one away once, thinking it was a deer fly. I don’t know if I have the patience to try it, nor am I sure I want them that comfortable around me! I love them, but a little distance at all times seems like a good thing.

  6. Mark Zeiger says:

    Jon, check with your grandma–maybe she puts whiskey in her nectar?

    Note: The above was meant as a joke! We have never heard of anyone adding alcohol to hummingbird nectar, nor do we recommend it as an experiment.

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