If someone asked you when your first hummingbird of the year was, would you remember? I know there are a number of people that would be able to rattle off the date in a second, but would you remember the first arrival over the last 10 years? Would you remember how many males stuck around your yard, or when the first young showed up in your yard each year? It may all seem like irrelevant information but there is so much value in tracking these annual statistics. How many males, when they first arrived, when the first young arrived, how many females showed up, when the males started to leave, and how many sightings per day or minute, are all valuable in understanding these birds and their population.
What can we learn from this information? First of all don't compare your region to anyone else's. If you live in a city and get few sightings, don't think you're doing something wrong because someone 5 miles away from you living in the country has massive sightings. There are a lot of variables that dictate numbers, one being country folks should always have more sightings than those in the cities if they followed exactly the same practices. Just concentrate on increasing your own numbers. If you have just one male that shows up in Spring and sticks around for the remainder of the summer, you are doing things right. If you have one dominant male and several others trying to sneak in for nectar during the Spring mating, you are doing everything right. When the males show up in Spring, they are looking at all criteria in determining if this is an area that will attract females, if there's enough food, if there's a water source, if there are mature trees for shelter and protection and how many of each there are. How many adult males will also indicate how rich the population is. If there are not big numbers of males in your region, it means the female population is much lower. In this case the males will expand their region, sometimes several square miles in order to increase the breeding opportunities. You may see one male show up every few days or longer because his territory is so large.
This is just a small amount of information you can obtain from tracking daily sightings throughout the entire time hummingbirds are here. I would encourage everyone to start a daily journal and track all the information you can.
These are the important pieces of information that I track daily:
Again, you may think that some of this information is unnecessary but I can tell you that you'll start to determine consistencies and learn an incredible amount from it. You may want to track this information just for basic knowledge, but you also may expand on the information you collect to learn more about these birds than you ever thought possible. Each year before and during the hummingbird season you can look back and compare statistics, and trust me, you will be glad you kept track. **It may seem like an odd time to post about this, but it'll allow you to get a journal ready to start off next Spring when there are far too may other things to prepare.
Photo is my last adult male Ruby-throated hummingbird of the year that left August 19th. 3 of the last 4 years the final adult male sighting was on this date. The other was August 15th. The latest male I've recorded is August 23rd. This one sat deep in the Lilac bush, using up as little energy as possible, and feeding every 15 minutes. N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Author of Jewel of the North. Please post your comments and questions.