Rufous Hummingbird

Jo O'Keefe Copyright 2009. Photos may be used for educational purposes only. Contact me with inquiries.Copyright 2009 Jo O'Keefe All Rights Reserved

My Rufous Hummingbird returned early on August 1, 2009, for the sixth consecutive year. Because he was a full-grown adult when he first arrived in 2004, he is at least seven years old. I am absolutely thrilled. Although he encountered nearly a dozen Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feeding in this sheltered corner of my yard, he quickly gained dominance of his territory. He fed very frequently for a week, roughly every five minutes. He still is feeding more frequently than the normal 15- to 20-minute schedule. Although Ruby-throated Hummingbirds still come, they definitely are not feeding every one to two minutes as they were before the Rufous took control. It never occurred to me until now how blessed I am that my Rufous is sharing this protected corner of my yard with a Bay Tree. My three Bay Trees are another story. I am not certain that they are trees. I was told by a forester when I purchased this house that they were either Red or Warty Bay "trees" and actually shrubs rather than trees. Crunched leaves smell like bay leaves from a spice jar. The bays indicate that my home is in a former Carolina Bay. I cherish them as remnants of the past world that development has destroyed. Between feedings, my Rufous sits on twigs of the bay tree preening himself, watching in all directions for predators. I hear his steady chirping when I am refilling his feeders.

I was delighted that my Rufous Hummingbird returned for a fifth consecutive year. He first arrived in September 2004. Each year he returned earlier. This year he arrived on August 5, 2008. He feeds right behind my computer and flies up to the window to greet me. The first 27 photos were taken in February and early March, 2009. The photos beneath them were taken in previous years. Nearly all photos on this webpage were taken through double-pane glass. I obviously have a love affair with this bird! Sadly, he left on March 12, 2009 to go to his second home. He was here for seven months this year. Because he stayed an extra month, molting is evident. Below is his final photo.

This is the last photo from the 2008 - 2009 season.

North Carolina's lead hummingbird researcher, Susan Campbell, provided the following information.

His stats on January 14, 2005 were: weight :4.38g; wing: 40.20mm; tail: 27mm; bill: 16.29 mm

His stats on February 8, 2007 were: weight: 3.53 g; wing: 40.16mm; tail: 27mm; bill: 17.51mm

Because he was first banded as an adult, he probably is more than five years old now. The lifespan is four to seven years for a Rufous Hummingbird and three to five years for a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

A female Rufous Hummingbird spent seven winters at the same feeder in Shelby, outside Charlotte, NC. She is the current record holder in NC.

Hummingbirds do not only drink sugar water. They eat mainly insects and other invertebrates -- anything small enough to swallow such as spiders, mites, aphids and flies.

They sleep in protected spots, often in thick vegetation. During storms they stay in protected areas whre it is warmer and drier. They can go into torpor during the day as well as at night to save energy.

Very little is known about their migration patterns. Because so little is known, researchers mainly speculate. Most Rufous Hummingbirds migrate all the way to Mexico and points south. They breed as far north
as southeast Alaska. They likely follow natural features such as mountain ridges and water courses. Our wintering birds may nest on the eastern edge of the breeding grounds--along the eastern slope of the Rockies.

09/02/07 -- there's that tongue again
08/31/07 -- note his tongue.
Carolina Shores, NC, 08/30/07
These photos were taken by researcher Susan Campbell during banding (left) and a return trip to check his band # (right).
Rufous Hummingbird at first release, 02/05
Rufous Hummingbird at 2nd release, 02/07; Photo by Bob Kassner