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For decades the ruby-throated hummingbird was considered the most common hummingbird in all of North America, including Ohio. But hummingbird banders and researchers with the Ohio-based Hummer/Bird Banding Collaborative started to rethink the question when Ohioans sighted hummingbirds during the winter months, after the ruby-throated hummingbirds had migrated south.
Common Ohio Hummingbird
During Ohio summers, backyard hummingbirds are likely the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). The University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web notes that Archilochus colubris breeds "throughout the eastern United States, east of the 100th meridian, and in southern Canada where there is eastern and mixed deciduous forest." The ruby-throated hummingbird winters in Mexico and Central America. Breeding grounds have remained consistent, but for some reason, breeding migration by ruby-throats is starting earlier each year.
Since 1954, a small number of licensed individuals have banded about 200,000 hummingbirds in the U.S. and Canada. The Hummer/Bird Banding Collaborative wants to band more hummingbirds. Researchers have "far too little data to help us understand hummingbirds, how they live, survive, migrate, and behave," the Collaborative notes. As different hummingbirds arrive during Ohio winters, Collaborative members want to understand what is causing the shift to new habitat.
About 350 species of hummingbirds are known. Four of those species have wintered in Ohio, including the rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). The rufous hummer breeds in the northwestern United States—including Alaska—and Canada. Selasphorus rufus usually winters in Mexico, except when it winters in Ohio. An Audubon Magazine article noting the change in rufous hummingbird locales asked, "Is this a result of our changing climate, or are birders just paying closer attention?"
Three other hummingbird species occasionally choose to winter in Ohio. Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna) a year-round West Coast resident, has been sighted. The calliope hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope), whose limited summer range is in the western United States, winters in Mexico but has been seen at Ohio feeders. And the green violet-ear hummingbird (Colibri thalassinus), usually found in Central America, has also visited Ohio. The Hummer/Bird Banding Research Collective hopes research will provide explanations for these habitat changes.
- Hummer/Bird Banding Research Collective: Winter Hummingbirds in Ohio...Ruby-throated?...or not?
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Animal Diversity Web: Archilochus colubris
- Associated Press: The Big Story: Study: Hummingbirds migrating earlier in spring
- Audubon Magazine: The Drifter
- HBRC: Bird Banding, Training, Education and Research
- NA/Photos.com/Getty Images