Nov 14 2011
Any hummingbird in November in Pittsburgh is highly unusual.
These aren’t the same birds we see all summer. Only one species of hummingbird breeds east of the Mississippi — the ruby-throated hummingbird — but they’ve all left for the tropics by late September.
November birds are Selasphorus hummers, so called because two species — the rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) and Allen’s hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) — are so similar they can’t be identified except when held in the hand or by high-speed photography showing the tail in exactly the right fanned position.
When Selasphorus birds are found in Pennsylvania, ornithologists band them. That’s when we find out they’re almost always rufous.
Rufous hummingbirds breed in the Pacific Northwest as far north as Alaska. They’re used to cool temperatures and not bothered by our weather as long as they find enough to eat. During migration they range far and wide and often visit backyard feeders. Solo birds can show up anywhere in the U.S.
Knowing this, some people leave their hummingbird feeders filled in the fall.
And it works. This month Scott Kinzey and Peter Keyel both discovered rufous hummingbirds at their feeders in Allegheny County.
Scott’s visitor is pictured here sipping from late-blooming salvia. It had already traveled 2,000 miles from its birthplace and its journey wasn’t over yet. If this species wasn’t so prone to wandering we’d say this bird was off course.
Click here for more of Scott’s hummer photos, including the banding.
If you like hummingbirds, keep your feeder filled and ready — even in November. You never know who might show up.
(photo by Scott Kinzey)