Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
The fall bird migration is gaining momentum. And although the annual travels of all bird species are fascinating, perhaps none is more intriguing, or more often overlooked, than the autumn migration of ruby-throated hummingbirds. Regardless of where you live in the state, this year’s migration is currently at its peak. After a somewhat lackluster performance during late August, my backyard feeders have suddenly become a virtual beehive of activity. Instead of just a handful of visits per hour, migrating hummingbirds are literally getting in line for their turn at the sugar water. Although there’s no sure way of knowing, I suspect that my backyard population is turning over daily as new hummers arrive from the North while others continue their journey south.
Ongoing efforts of human bird banders have revealed that many of the hummingbirds currently passing through Iowa come from the woodlands of northern Minnesota and Ontario, and that most will winter in Central America. The majority of those migration miles are flown at night, with many birds choosing the “straight line route” which takes them completely across the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight — a truly amazing feat for a bird with a wingspan of four inches and weighing less than a quarter ounce.