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(24 October 2003)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

We really ARE beginning to believe that some people in the Carolina Piedmont just have an ability to attract winter vagrant hummingbirds. In January 2003 we visited the home of Carolyn and Emile Russett in Rock Hill (York County) SC and banded a second-year female Rufous Hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus, that had been coming to a feeder. I guess we should not have been surprised to get an e-mail from Carolyn on the evening of 23 October saying that--based on rust they could see in its tail (below right)--an apparent Rufous again was foraging in the Russett backyard. Since Rock Hill is so close--only about 15 miles from York--we made plans to drive to the Russett house on the morning of 24 October to observe and capture the hummer in question.

When we arrived at 9 a.m., Emile said he hadn't seen the hummer for about 30 minutes. Some winter vagrant hummingbirds are quite unpredictable, and it's not unusual for one to disappear suddenly even after patronizing a particular yard all winter. Assuming the bird was still around, we took down a feeder outside the Russett's front window and placed the one in the backyard inside our portable hummingbird trap. All this was accomplished in about five minutes, after which we accepted Emile's invitation to take occupy a living room easy chair that provided a good view of the trap.

We barely had time settle in when the hummer made its first apppearance and investigated the trap briefly, after which it flew up and over the house to the front porch where the other feeder had been hanging. Seemingly confused by the absence of this food source, the hummer hovered right at the feeder's former location, flew away, came back and hovered, and the flew back over the house. Momentarialy it reappeared outside the trap and then entered without hesitation. A quick push of our electronic remote button caused the sliding door on the trap to shut behind the hummer, and another Russett bird was soon in our grasp.

Measurements and other in-the-hand characteristics indicated it was another young female Rufous that hatched sometime in 2003, undoubtedly in southern Alaska, western Canada, or the northern Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. She and her conspecifics "should be" in Mexico at this time of year, but something encouraged the Russett's bird to wander--just as her predecessor did last winter.

Vital Statistics for Rufous Hummingbird #Y14848
Age/Sex--Hatch-year female
Wing Chord--45.0mm
Tail Length--25.0mm
Tail Fork--4.0mm
Culmen (upper bill)--18.0mm
Bill Corrugations--Along 60% of bill
Gorget--Three small orange-red metallic feathers
(below left)



All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

From October 15 to March 15
Please report
your sightings of all
Vagrant & Winter Hummingbirds
east of the Rockies

Hatch-year male Rufous Hummingbird

If you're interested in sharing your hummingbird observations and learning from other enthusiasts, you may wish to subscribe to Hummingbird Hobnob, our Yahoo!-based discussion group. Also be sure to visit our award-winning Web site for Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project; on it you'll find almost anything you want to know about hummingbirds, including more information about Hummingbird Banding.

Students at GLOBE-certified schools may submit winter hummingbird observations as part of Operation RubyThroat and GLOBE. Students can also correlate hummingbird observations with data on abiotic factors, including atmosphere, climate, hydrology, soils, land cover, and phenology. See the "Protocols" section of the GLOBE Web site for details about this exciting collaboration.

For much more information about hummingbirds, visit
Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.