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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hummingbird Numbers Down ???


Several people have written us recently, expressing concern that they are seeing fewer Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in their yards, despite keeping the same number of feeders and conditions, etc. as previous years. Some of these folks are located in the upper midwest.

It's hard to estimate hummingbird numbers, since you often don't know if you are seeing the same or different hummers. Their numbers can also be influenced by such factors as, how many garden and wildflowers are in bloom (in which case they may temporarily leave your feeders), do you keep your feeders clean and filled, how consistently are you looking, etc.

Based on guestimates, we think we are seeing somewhat less hummingbirds in our yard now than in previous summers. We have a few males and, right now, are seeing no females, although we saw females earlier in the spring. We will be interested to see what numbers we see in August in our yard, because that is when hummers are beginning to migrate, and we usually see numbers of males, females, and immatures.

We did some very brief looking on the internet to see if there was any information about this. There are a number of websites devoted to hummingbirds. They focus on tracking migration, banding, answering questions, conserving hummingbirds, etc. We found nothing specific about Ruby-throated hummer numbers this spring and summer, although there may be info. out there.

So our question to you is, do your think you are seeing less, more, or the same numbers of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in your yard as in previous years? If you answer tell us what area of the country you are in. You can answer in the comment section by clicking on the "comment" link below. Or you can email us, click here.

Photos of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds © Lillian Stokes, 2007

65 comments:

Richard Asarisi said...

At my place I have several feeders up all summer long and well into fall for migrants. SO far this season it seems no less or no more then last season or the season before. Roughly the same amount as best i can tell. A friend of mine went to AZ in April to photograph the hummingbirds, they were a few less there according to the locals but mostly do to the warm weather being a few weeks behind.

Great shots! I love them!

Sara said...

I live in SW Michigan and believe we have about the usual number of RT Hummingbirds here this season. This is based on frequency of feeder visits and amount of nectar consummed. Spring here was very harsh with late snow and prolonged freeze, just as you reported in NH. This seems to have heavily affected the Bluebird and swallow populations, as sadly, I am seeing very few.

Iris said...

I have far fewer hummingbirds at my feeder this summer. Last summer I'd see a hummer out there every few minutes all day long, but so far this year I'm lucky to see one a few times a week. My home office overlooks the feeder, so I'm watching but they're not coming!

However, the American Goldfinches are another story. This year is like a bumper crop of them!

Iris said...

Sorry, I forgot to mention that I'm in Greensboro, NC.

Patty Campbell said...

Hello,
We live in Washington DC, right next to Rock Creek Park.
I'm happy to say we have the same amount of hummingbirds this year. There seem to be 2 males who regularly fight over the feeder, I can't figure out if there is more than 1 female. At least I have not seen females fighting!
Your web site is a joy to visit. If I win the lottery I'm going to invest in a super camera like yours. In the meantime I'll enjoy your great photos.
Patty

CKIndy said...

I live just northeast of Indianapolis and it seems we have less hummers this summer. Last summer seemed to be the most in 10 years at our home, so maybe we are back to a more typical number and last year was just an abortion. Last summer our feeders were fairly busy all day. It was typical to see 2 or 3 hummers having some territorial disagreements! This year, seems I only notice hummers in the late afternoon and only one at a time.

Bisbee Border Birder Bloggers said...

Hey, D&L! Hummingbird activity around feeders is definitely low in SE Arizona this year, but as you wrote it's hard to tell what the factors are. I'm sure our populations are down from over a decade of drought and poor reproduction, but since we had good rains last summer and some rain and snow this winter there's also more food for those fewer birds. And there are LOTS of babies this year - we banded 14 juvies of three species at two sites this week.

And BTW, we recently got "tagged" for the Eight Random Facts meme, and now it's YOUR turn:

Eight Random Facts

Hope you'll play (and can't wait to see your contribution)!

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Bev from New Brunswick, Canada wrote to us and said she saw normal numbers of hummers when they first arrived back around May 21. Now she is seeing fewer. She was not sure if their numbers are truly down or if they are busy sitting on nests.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Richmond, Virginia and I believe we had more hummers last year. I have two hummers this year, a male and female. I don't see them using the feeder as much this year but I did plant more lantana, bee balm and other flowers that they like so they may be utilizing them more than the feeders. Last year we had 4 hummers that would come all the time.

Anonymous said...

I own a wild bird and gift store in Central Illinois. I would say 80% of my customers are reporting far fewer hummingbirds compared to years past. At my own personal feeders...I have seen 3 hummingbirds..each a few weeks apart..and I did not see them return for refills! I have a feeder at the store, and I have not seen a hummingbird at all. The store is located next to two different nurseries...so you'd think they would be around. Was wondering if the Hurricanes could be a factor? Chemical use in Mexico and the southern countries? We also had a very warm March...then a very hard freeze in April that I am sure would have an affect on the availability of food. With that bad news...we have had a banner year with Baltimore Orioles..best year ever!

Vickie

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Linda wrote to us and said: "We are at our vacation house in Norway Maine which is located in Western
Maine, near Bethel. We are definitely seeing fewer hummingbirds. In years past
our feeders brought to mind "Star Wars" with hummers circling the house and attacking one another. It is nothing like that so far this year. I see a hummer at least daily but seldom more than one at each of the two feeders. We've not
changed anything in regard to feeders or their location.
We have had an "explosion" of nuthatches. All white breasted,I believe.
Also the phoebes are nesting again but this time they chose a better location, under the deck rather than on the porch light. This is a nest that had been used two years ago, basically a fixer upper and they've done a wonderful job restoring it. I had sent you photos last year of our porch phoebes. They bring us such pleasure.
Linda
P.S. your gardens are breathtaking.

Jayne said...

I saw the first hummer here April 6th, and then we had that very late freeze. This time last year, I was filling feeders every other day or so. This year, I see one male, maybe once or twice during the day? I only saw a female just yesterday and she was the first in weeks. I am pouring out nectar left and right and refiling the feeders only maybe 1/4 full. It's as if they are just not here this year. I am in northwest GA.

LNMP said...

I don't think that there has been any change in the number of hummingbirds coming to our feeder here in upstate New York. We have had several females and at least one small male RT Hummingbird visiting the feeder on a regular basis.

I think the weather has had a significant impact on bird populations. Last summer it was very damp and rainy here. This summer has been moderate, and our feeding station has been inundated by successfully fledged birds such as chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers, nuthatches, chipping sparrows, etc.

Susan said...

I live in North Carolina, & I'm sure our hummer count is way down this year. Last year one or more would visit the feeeders at least once every 5 minutes. This year, I usually only see them in the mornings & evenings. I haven't seen the red throat of a male yet!

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Greg from Saskatchewan said,

"Hello all

I was on holiday last week at Crooked Lake, for those unfamiliar it is a small lake about 2 hours east and north of Regina. The prairie in the valley is still mostly native grasslands, with the typical pockets of brush and trees. Three years ago a huge rainstorm washed out a colony of Bank
and have never recorded Bobolinks, and this year I found 4 birds.
Additionally, the residents have all commented on the numbers of
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, in fact at two feeders at my in-laws
yard there were 8 birds feeding at the same time, while some people
I talked to said they often have 10 birds present. In past years the
most I have seen at one time was 2 birds. Turkey Vultures were
present with a high count of 7 birds in one group; however, neither Bluebird species were present this year. I found a single Olive-sided Flycatcher, and surprisingly Northern Waterthrush. Least Flycatchers, American Goldfinch and Pine Siskins were present in their usual numbers, as were House Wrens. Western Kingbird numbers were higher than past years, and Purple Martin numbers were robust to say the least. American Robins were ever present, and as expected still nesting, but what I found interesting was the almost communal nesting behaviour. There is a machine shed prensent which is approximatley 40 meters in length, but of that length about 20
meters has suitble spots for these birds to nest (i.e., window
sills). On one side of the shed there were 3 active nests within
this 20 meter stretch, with one nest sitting on top of two other
nests(I presume nests from previous years or previous nestings), and
on the other side of the shed were two other active nests.

One other note is that Monarch Butterflys were the dominant
Butterfly in the area. I have never seen a single one of these
insects here before, but this year if you wanted to see one you did
not have to look long."

Greg

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Doug from Alberta emailed us:
"Greetings, here are some observations about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds ... No problems up here. Where I live, in Alberta, they seem to be in normal numbers."

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Karla from Ohio emailed us this,

"Hello!

I just wanted to let you know that I have noticed smaller numbers this summer at my hummer feeders, and this has been a hot topic among my friends. I live in Blanchester,in Southwest Ohio. Normally, I notice that a couple of times during the summer that they seem to "disappear" for a week or so, but this year, I have noticed
smaller numbers the whole year through. My sister and a co-worker who live in nearby Wilmington, Oh, have both asked me where the hummers are. However, my boss (who also lives in Wilmington) has not noticed any decline in numbers, so go figure!

My glads are just now starting to bloom, so I hope that will help attract more back
to my house.

Happy birding!

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Linda from Norway, Maine, emailed us this,
"We are at our vacation house in Norway Maine which is located in Western Maine, near Bethel. We are definitely seeing fewer hummingbirds. In years past
our feeders brought to mind "Star Wars" with hummers circling the house and attacking one another. It is nothing like that so far this year. I see a hummer at least daily but seldom more than one at each of the two feeders. We've not
changed anything in regard to feeders or their location.
We have had an "explosion" of nuthatches. All white breasted,I believe. Also the phoebes are nesting again but this time they chose a better location, under
the deck rather than on the porch light. This is a nest that had been used two years ago, basically a fixer upper and they've done a wonderful job restoring it. I had sent you photos last year of our porch phoebes. They bring us such pleasure."
Linda
P.S. your gardens are breathtaking.

Anonymous said...

We live just south of Denver, Colorado, and this will be our 3rd summer of putting up feeders. Last year I began a "tweetster" diary, recording our first sighting of the season and other notable events throughout the season, all the way to our very last sighting in October. We see primarily Broadtails, and our numbers have grown each year as we've added more feeders and I've become increasingly more vigilant about keeping the feeders clean and the sugar water fresh. We now have six throughout our yard and they are all pretty busy. For the past 3 years, our first male Broadtail has appeared on April 15th, with the 2nd around the 1st of May. Even though we had three snow storms after that time, they made it through. Activity doesn't really pick up until June, when we begin to see more males, and then females by the middle of the month. July is very busy and very entertaining with multiple dive bombing and other air shows by the males throughout the day. Broadtails make a trilling sound when they fly, so you always know when they're around -- to us it is the sound of summer! Interestingly, for the past 3 years, 2 male Rufous have appeared on or near the 15th, with females following shortly after. This year, just as last year at this time, we sighted an adult male Calliope at one feeder. The Rufous try to take over the feeders in the beginning, but usually don't stay longer than a couple of weeks. It appears that they and the Calliope are just passing through. We have about 25 tweetsters this year, about double that of last year! Because of the arrival and departure dates being almost to the day, we think we are getting the same ones and, perhaps, their offspring that were born here. The babies start appearing at our feeders in mid to late July, and we're expecting to start seeing them any day now! We're hoping for several. While the males start leaving near the end of August, our final sighting last fall was of a female on October 3rd. We keep at least one feeder up until the 15th, just in case a straggler happens by and needs nourishment.

Anonymous said...

I put my feeders up in march, and get action right away. They are very busy until july1st it seems, then the males disapear and I only get the occational female from then on, any idea why that is? I keep the food fresh and dont do anything diffrent from march until july.

Anonymous said...

Live in NE Mississipp and much less hummers this year started noticing around late april after the spring migration the number just dropped really quickly usually i have at least 60 that stay around. this year maybe 10 to 20 now that it is starting to get close to there return migration numbers are picking up slightly but nothing like before.
Interested in seeing if others are having the same results this year.

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Andrea from GA wrote this to us -
I did a search "fewer hummingbirds this year" because we were seeing FAR fewer hummers this year. We have always had at least 3 or more hummers around our sunroom (2 feeders) This year we began to see them earlier on, but for the last month or more, almost none. Today,7/24/08 we are getting rain and cooler temps and I have seen several. The "guards" are back guarding their territory. My husband thinks it's the hotter dryer weather we've had in our area. My friends and neighbors have commented on seeing FAR fewer hummers this year also. I have by the way, kept my feeders clean and water changed frequently. So it's
not that.

Anonymous said...

I have been birding for over five years at the same location.Each year the population has increased.Last year,I was up to three gallons of mix a day.This year one gallon a day if I'm lucky.I live in Missouri and I too wonder.Maybe it has something to do with the late hard freeze.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Hummingbird activity in upstate NY north of Albany has greatly improved with the fledging of hummingbird young. Last month, I would've said numbers were down. Now I would rate the hummingbird season as "good".

SL said...

I'm also in GA - Atlanta. I usually put up my 3 feeders in mid-July and they are busy until late August. This year I saw one HB in a tree. Nobody else. None! Same feeders, same food, same plants in the yard, still cleaning the feeders, etc. I found this site because I was searching the internet to see if others were reporting low numbers.

Anonymous said...

I live in east tennessee and I have seen no hummingbirds at my feeder this yr. usually I have several that fight over the feeder

Anonymous said...

I live in middle Tennessee and have seen far fewer hummingbirds this year. We usually see many hummers at this time of year but they remain very sparce. We had a late spring freeze that lasted 3 days and I was wondering if that might have killed off some of the early arrivals or maybe even their eggs. Just a thought . . .

Anonymous said...

Reporting from 30 miles west of Richmond, VA we have recently relocated to the "country"...lots of open area and the nearest neighbors are a couple yards away. We have had feeders at our previous houses in Charlottesville, VA and would typically have 2 or 3 birds fighting over the feeder...well...we moved in May 15 this year and our feeders were all in storage. We saw one or two hummers the first couple weeks flying in the area. This prompted us to locate our feeder and set it up. I wasn't prepared for what was to follow..within a couple days I was reloading the feeder twice a day...and added two more feeders (because we were leaving for a long weekend). We are now going through a gallon of nectar about every 2 1/2 days and estimate 14-16 hummers are actively feeding! We have never seen anything like this and of course are completely enjoying it...still trying to figure out where they were going prior to the feeders being placed. Great site!

Anonymous said...

I live in northern Indiana and we have not had nearly as many hummers this summer. As a matter of a fact, I haven't seen any for several days now. I am hoping they are not gone for the season already.

Bill C said...

I live in Summerfield, NC (just north of Greensboro) and this year as well as last we have a bumber crop of the little rascals. We keep four feeders on our back deck and have counted as many as 12 at one time on or around all of them. I believe there are probably more, but they're really hard to count since they are so active. I have three of the Perky Pet feeders that hold about a cup and a quarter of food and a larger feeder that holds about twice as much. I fill the small feeders up each night and when I get home in the early evening at least two of them are completely empty.

Anonymous said...

I saw a hummingbird this morning at the break of daylight in Ironton Missouri.

Aleta said...

We have fewer hummingbirds at our feeders this year than previous years. They arrived on time (April 8) but there aren't as many, it seems. Normally as the summer progresses, more and more come (probably from the babies) and we will be interested to see how this summer progresses. We live in Hancock County, Tennessee, which is in the northeastern section of the state.

Anonymous said...

We are in SE Michigan and noticed a definite decline in numbers. We were encouraged by the initial May 1st arrival(male)but I'd say visits are down 95% from previous years. No changes in our procedures from previous years.

Sure do miss those little guys.

Anonymous said...

We are in the NE GA mountains and have way fewer hummingbirds than we did last year at this time. Same amount of feeders, same procedures, etc. Have seen 1 or 2 males, no females. Sure do miss them.

Anonymous said...

We're in western MI. I am wondering why we've had less hummers at our feeder this year (so far). I still hear their calls so I know at least some are here. I'm wondering if maybe it has to do with the fanastic spring we've had relative to flowering blooms? A bit longer season than "normal" recently. Now that the blooms are leaving I'll be interested to see if we see more birds at the feeder...

Anonymous said...

We live in Middle Tennessee and we have seen only three hummers thus far this year.
Last year, we had a bumper crop of hummers......as many as 15 - 20 trying to feed at one time.

Anonymous said...

Southwestern Tennessee here, very few hummies thus far. Like most reported, we had dozens last year but very few this year.

Anonymous said...

I came to this site because we have no hummingbirds, early April we had a couple of scouts at the feeder, but since then absolutely none. We have always enjoyed the hummers, concerned about what has happened to them in middle tenn. Everyone here same story. If there is an explanation, please advise??

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Hummingbird numbers may fluctuate from year to year in any given place. It may be dependent on weather, what flowers in the wild are blooming, whether the habitat is the same or changed, etc. You will see more hummers during migration than during breeding.

To attract and keep hummingbirds just try your best to do the things that will attract them. Keep a multiple number of hummingbird feeders filled with fresh, clean sugar water solution (1 part sugar, 4 parts water, boil one minute, cool) and change every 2-3 days in hot weather. Plant red tubular flowers such as salvia, impatiens, penstemons, native trumpet honeysuckle, trumpet vine, etc. Make sure you have trees and woodlands nearby where they nest. Do not use pesticides on your property as hummers eat lots of insects. Keep accurate records, so you can document declines. Turn you records into your state audubon and to ebird.org which documents population trends of North America Birds.

Tom said...

Only 1 hummer for me so far in 2008 here in Southeastern NC. I put out my feeder in March or April. That first one came for a couple of days in mid June and left. In the last few years, I've always had one to call my feeder home and a few others that were shoed away. I've asked others in the area who have also had virtually no activity this year. I'm concerned as to what might have happened to them this past winter.

Anonymous said...

I live in Hendersonville Tennessee and i havent had any hummers as the last 5 years there normally are 20 to 30 between 3 feeders Does anyone know where they are?

Anonymous said...

I live in SW Ohio and from what I have observed, there are at laest 50% fewer humming birds this year in my area; all the people that have feeders here are saying the same thing.

Tara said...

I live in central PA. We are getting aprox. 50% fewer humming birds at our feeders this year. There seems to be the same number of males to females as usual though.

Anonymous said...

Here in Cumming, GA we have not seen any Hummingbirds this year. We've had our feeders up since May.

Anonymous said...

We live in Granville Tennessee and have seen a lot less hummingbirds this year. It seems that only 2 are around the feeder at one time. Last year we had 6. We would sit there laughing at the 1male that always seemed to guard 2 feeders at once. This year I've only put 1 feeder out since there aren't enough birds to empty them. We've found 2 dead on our deck and aren't sure whether they ran into a window or just died. I was beginning to think that maybe some disease is causing the decline.

Anonymous said...

We're in NW New Mexico, and our numbers of Ruby Throats and particularly Rufous are distinctly down. Rubies are 50% off, and Rufous are waaaaay down---we only have one male Rufous this year, whereas we usually get 6-8 Rufous, male and female.

Anonymous said...

I live in Northern NJ and with the exception of a hummer we spotted in mid-May at the feeder, we haven't seen anything since. I'm hoping once my butterfly bush blossoms, I'll start seeing them again. Also, my Dad lives in Eastern PA and only recently spotted his first hummer of the season. Extremely disappointed this year!

Anonymous said...

I live in the foothills west of Boulder, CO and think we have more hummers than usual at our place.
We have two feeders (about 1-1/2 cups each) and have to refill them every day to a day and a half. The majority are broadtail, with at least 2 or 3 rufous males (I can't tell the girls apart, but there are many), and even a couple caliopes, which I don't recall seeing before.
There's also a chance we have some ruby throated, but I don't know for sure how to distinguish them from broadtails, other than their throats look more orange-red than the BT's maroon-red.
I hope all yours come back, they are such a joy to watch!

Anonymous said...

When we normally have dozens of black-chinned and broad-tailed hummingbirds (with Rufous showing up mid-summer)we have about 6 black-chinned and no broad-tailed. It is very obvious that something is up here in south-central CO (7200 ft).

Kathy Kay said...

We are very concerned here in Co. Our number of Broad-taileds is drastically down from last year. For the last five years we have had 2-3 breeding pairs on or near our property. This year - none. The worst part is the woods and parks are quiet as well as most of the feeders in the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

We live in Shelbyville (eastern) Illinois and have 8 feeders out. DRASTIC decrease in hummers this year, as well as drastic decrease at our friends' farm in Pleasant Hill( Western) Illinois where they also have 6 feeders out. Probably less than 1/2the birds we both seemed to have last year.

Anonymous said...

I live near St.Louis, Missouri and I have about 1/10 the normal hummingbirds than I normally do. This time of year, I should be going through about a half gallon of necter a day and I am not even going through a quart a day. I have friend in Illinois who are saying the same thing.... no where near what is normal.
June 10, 2010 St Louis, MO

Anonymous said...

I live in Mckinney Texas which is north of Dallas. I am sadly seeing fewer RT Hummingbirds so far this year. Last year we could see them every few minutes at one of our feeders, but we've only had a few sightings. I've only seen a female once. We keep the feeders clean, change the nectar every few days and have the same plants/flowers that we've always had. Miss my hummers!

Anonymous said...

Our population of ruby-throated hummers is way off this year in extreme northwest South Carolina. We've not even bothered putting the second feeder out as single one on the front porch is getting so little play. We're used to seeing constant dueling bird activity at this time of year. Others in out area are reporting the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Our population of ruby-throated hummers is way off this year in extreme northwest South Carolina. We've not even bothered putting the second feeder out as single one on the front porch is getting so little play. We're used to seeing constant dueling bird activity at this time of year. Others in out area are reporting the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Hello
I'm 30 miles from Grand Rapids, Mi.
We live in the woods with many flowers for the hummingbird. I always have 3 feeders out and have to fill them each day.
This year I have only about 4 males
and a couple of femals.

This year I saw the 1st hummer on May 2nd and have only 4 or 5 little
birds now and this is end of July.

Thank you for the opportunity send you my sightings and read of others.

Anonymous said...

Like so many others have reported, I see far fewer hummingbirds this summer. Where I live, near Baton Rouge, I should see them fighting over the feeders outside my kitchen window. Everyone I talk to says the same thing. I wonder what happened over the winter.

Anonymous said...

It's late October in the Palm Sprngs area. Where we typically see 13-18 hummers daily, now there are just 3. We have two feeders out and instead of having to refill due to consumption we need to change the old feed. Is there something affecting the hummers (like honey bees) or is this just a one year anomaly?

Anonymous said...

I normally am all abuzz with hummingbirds this time of year. My numbers are down drastically and they are not my "usual" birds. I am a banding station during the migration, so I will be interested to see if the numbers increase or any repeat captures this August. Could it be because of all the severe storms in the south early this spring, during the northward migration? I am in central Illinois and am very concerned about the numbers this year. I have 11 feeders and should be seeing more feeding activity--I have witnessed one male "dancing" for his female so there should be some nesting going on soon--maybe then I will see more females and their brood. Very worried :-(

Jennifer P. said...

SW Ohio(Cincinnati). I have a great reduction in numbers of RT hummers at my feeders compared to last year. My mom lives about 4 miles away and reports the same decline in birds visiting her feeders.

Rose Mary said...

I live in Oklahoma and we very seldom see a hummingbird this year. Once in awhile one will come to the feeder. Don't know if it is always the same one. Other years we would have more. Usually there would be one or 2 hummingbirds that would chase the other birds away. But not this year.

Anonymous said...

I live in Greene count Ohio and I have seen a big decrease in hummers this year. I have obly one male at my feeders and no females. I usually have 6 females and few males stop by.

Anonymous said...

I live in south east missouri and bird numbers are very low. I have been speaking to friends and family in Ky, and its the same there also. I sure miss seeing the large numbers around my feeders.

Anonymous said...

I live in Oklahoma and normally have 3 feeders which I fill daily but this year I only have 3 birds visiting my feeders. This is a drastic drop in birds here.

Randall Greene said...

I live in Richmond/Ashland area of Virginia and this year (2013) was way down. I've had at least one if not two families for years and non this year.