I get lots of calls about this or that; often from people wondering about some odd animal or plant. In the vast majority of cases, their "mystery" organism is something common, at least to me. But I'm always glad to try and help, and what's common to me may not be to others. Anyway, a few days ago I received a call from a lady who started out by saying "I'm worried about my hummingbird..."! Whoa! My ears pricked up like a jackrabbit, knowing that the bird was likely a Rufous Hummingbird, with a remote possibility of some other western species. Our only breeding species, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, should be long gome by now and hummingbirds seen after mid-October should be closely scrutinized.
Following is a pictorial story of this hummingbird, which is frequenting a feeder near Marysville, Ohio.
In the photo above is Allen's specially designed capture cage. The wire enclosure is hung in the same spot as the feeder that the bird visits, and the feeder then hung inside the cage. The open door is on the right side. Normally this contraption doesn't deter the hummer at all, and it'll shoot right up, circle the cage until it spots the opening, and dart right in.
Ohio's first Rufous Hummingbird dates to 1985, and we've had something like 70 records since. This species' breeding range is from Oregon and Idaho north through western Canada and as far north as Anchorage, Alaska. They are exceedingly tough little birds, and quite able to deal with cold temperatures. It dipped to the high teens here last night, and it was 22 degrees when Allen caught the bird.
Banding has revealed that some of these seemingly wayward western hummingbirds will return to the same eastern locale for one or even more years. As the ones that appear at our latitude don't overwinter - this bird will probably leave before long - they obviously head to warmer climes whether it is the Gulf Coast, or the typical wintering grounds of western Mexico. Presumably they then head north to the breeding range for the summer.
The reasons for the upward surge in western and southern hummingbird species well east and north of their normal ranges is unsettled, but there are some likely explanations. That's another post however, but I'll try to put up some theories on this topic later.