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Georgia's Wintering Hummingbirds

Georgia's Wintering Hummingbirds

Georgia's wintering hummingbirds still need nourishment during the cooler months. . . Read on to find out more!

Georgians should keep their hummingbird feeders up during the fall and winter because during these seasons some fast, fly-by friends will be buzzing by ice-covered windows throughout the state! Nine species of hummingbirds can be seen in the state -- ruby-throated, black-chinned, Anna's, broad-tailed, broad-billed, rufous, calliope, Allen's and magnificent. The ruby-throated is the only hummingbird that nests in Georgia with very few birds seen over wintering here. Most of the hummingbirds seen in Georgia during the winter months are western visitors. Wintering hummingbirds begin arriving as early as August; however, they appear at feeders anytime throughout fall and winter. In winter, the hummingbird with the longest migration route and North America's smallest hummingbird are among the hummingbirds that migrate here.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division is encouraging people across the state to keep up at least one feeder during the winter months so the DNR can document western hummingbirds that find their way to Georgia. If a wintering hummingbird visits a feeder this year, it may return next year.

Traditionally, Georgians have taken their feeders down in the fall in fear that feeders would keep hummingbirds from migrating. But, hummingbirds migrate in response to day length, not food supply, so leaving a feeder up will not hinder the hummers migrating. Some lucky Georgia homeowners have been known to host six or more wintering hummingbirds!

The rufous hummingbird is the most commonly seen wintering hummer in the southeastern U.S. During one  winter, more than 100 rufous hummers  were documented in Georgia. The rufous hummingbird has the longest migration of any North American hummingbird, traveling from its breeding ranges that extend from the Pacific Northwest as far north as southern Alaska to its primary wintering grounds in south-central Mexico. However, wintering rufous hummingbirds are spotted throughout Georgia and the rest of the Southeast.

The colorful calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird found in the United States and is one of Georgia's winter residents. The calliope had first seen in the Peach State during the winter of 1998-99.

Many of the wintering hummingbirds are extremely difficult to identify, so don't assume that the wintering hummer at your feeder is a rufous. It may take an expert to positively identify them. If a hummingbird shows up at your feeder from October until the end of February, be sure to contact the Nongame Conservation Section office in Forsyth at the address below. Your information can help WRD document the incidence of wintering hummers and help determine their habitat needs.

Georgians who spot any of the unusual hummingbirds species that migrate through Georgia in winter months are encouraged to report their sightings to the Nongame Conservation Section. Who knows, you may be the first person to report a buff-bellied or other rare hummingbird in Georgia!

To report wintering hummingbird sightings in Georgia, please contact the Nongame Conservation Section  office in Forsyth at (478) 994-1438 or write to:  Wintering Hummingbirds, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, Nongame Conservation Section, 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth, GA 31029.

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