If you haven’t gotten your hummingbird feeders up yet, do it now. Many feeders will host the first returning ruby-throated hummingbirds by the last few days in March. In Mecklenburg County I usually get a few reports by March 30; reporters from Union and Lancaster counties may be a day or two ahead. By the first few days of April there will be a big push through the southern piedmont.
The first sightings will be of adult males. They precede the females who will come along a week or so later. And most of the early birds will be just passing through on their way to points north.
It is not unusual to see the birds during early April and then experience a lapse in sightings for a while, sometimes for as long as a few months. Some lucky hosts will see birds through the nesting season if they are fortunate enough to live in a nesting territory. If not, it may be until August when the birds reappear. But when they do it will be in droves.
I don’t see a lot of hummingbird nests every year, but the ones I do see are generally in lowland areas such as creek bottoms. Moving water close by seems to be a required component of a territory fit to attract a female ruby-throat. They might choose a nest site in an urban setting; they nest in Dilworth’s Latta Park every year; but there is that creek running right through the middle. Many residential areas just don’t have all the territory requirements for the birds to nest successfully.
So, don’t be disappointed if birds seem to disappear from your yard after you see them for a couple of weeks. By supplying a full and fresh feeder you are helping the birds along their way to wherever their final destination is. They burn loads of energy just being hummingbirds; they need even more energy during the migrations.
In other brief migration news, Louisiana waterthrushes and blue-gray gnatcatchers have arrived in Mecklenburg. I will profile these two species next.