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Birdchick Blog: Hummingbird Decline?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hummingbird Decline?

So, I had someone email me from a bird store in Kentucky asking if I had noticed a hummingbird shortage in Minnesota. "My Customers are coming into the store complaining that their are no hummingbirds this year, where most customers have had hundreds in previous years, now only have a couple. Have you seen a decline in hummingbirds within the last two years were you are at?"

I have not noticed a decline, but decided to do some googling on the subject. According to a Carolina Birds listserv in June of 2008, people are not seeing as many hummingbirds and are not sure why.

I found a blog called Divinebunbun and she too reports a general lack of hummers for the summer of 2008. She reports:

"Online "bird boards" in Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio, report the same scarcity this year. Hummingbirds appeared in Missouri as usual, around the 24th of April. But everyone's usual customers aren't coming to nectar feeders. Normal hummer activity is reported only in one remote rural area of Missouri. Nobody knows why. Speculation about the missing hummers ranges from: the Midwest's extended winter (although hummers can survive freezing temperatures); flooding (confusing the hummers as they migrated from Mexico); a natural, cyclic decline in the population; a sinister, pollution-related population decline; and, because there's plenty of flowers the hummers don't need nectar feeders."

I also found a link to the Stokes blog from 2007 when people were noticing a shortage of hummingbirds, but many are commenting this summer as well (it's worth checking the comments). What about you? Are you seeing a lack of ruby-throated hummingbirds in the East? Or any decline of hummingbird species in the West? Is this anecdotal? Or is something else going on? Is it hummingbird collapse disorder?

UPDATE: A DC Birding Blog had some interesting observations regarding the hummer reports on ebird.



Blogger Debbie said...

I've actually seen more hummers in our yard here in Northern NY this summer. Not sure if this is because I am being more faithful with keeping the feeders full and fresh or because my flower garden is doing very well this year. (Maybe a combo.)

7/10/2008 11:00 PM  
Blogger DeeDee said...

Yes! I live in Phoenix, Az. and last year had about 6 or8 regular hummers. This year my front porch was home to a hummingbird nest...only one baby survived and the baby and Mom are the ONLY hummingbirds have this year. To make matters worse the finches have commandeered the nectar feeder (didn't even know finches liked sugar water!) They are keeping the 2 hummers away.
I'm heartbroken! Tomorrow I'm hanging a special finch feeder in hopes the hummingbirds will feel safe at their feeder again.
Do you have any other ideas?

7/10/2008 11:09 PM  
Blogger John said...

I have gotten emails like that both last year and this year. It's hard to say whether they represent local population swings or a widespread trend without having data to back it up. Maybe someone could analyze BBS data over the past 5-10 years to find out?

I haven't seen many hummers this year myself, but that needs a big asterisk since I'm not good at spotting them, even in good hummer habitat.

7/10/2008 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Curt said...

In the Twin Cities, MN, I have only seen 4 hummingbirds, this year! My feeder used to have them daily. Now just once.

7/10/2008 11:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just have a few Anna's hummers each year. Same ones are back. My pyracantha is fully fertilized too. Massive amount of bees. I never spray. The hummers feed off of the fushias and bougainvilla.
Oh, and Salvia. I think they are nesting in the Austrailia Bottle Brush. I am in San Francisco

7/11/2008 12:40 AM  
Blogger P. Ollig said...

The numbers here in north-central Arizona (Verde Valley) seem a little down from last summer, but we're still going through nearly a gallon of sugar-water a day.

Of course, I only have last summers numbers to compare to, so my observations are probably anecdotal at best.

7/11/2008 12:56 AM  
OpenID fieldguidetohummingbirds said...

The issue of missing Ruby-throateds has been discussed on HUMNET and elsewhere, and the opinion of some experts is that the nesting season in the East got a late start this year, so the usual midsummer rush of young birds and post-breeding wanderers is running late. Abundance of flowers is another common reason for seeing lower-than-usual numbers of hummingbirds, and in some areas where rainfall has been scant there's been more feeder activity than usual.

Any shortage of hummers here in SE Arizona is strictly a local phenomenon. Overall, I'm seeing more hummingbirds this summer than the last three or four summers. SABO's San Pedro River banding station has been very busy with lots of Black-chinneds and a Violet-crowned last weekend, and today in my yard there were at least four Broad-billeds, two Black-chinneds, and a probable adult male Allen's (tail not well seen but lots of green on the back, mellow behavior). I've got four feeders out to reduce the fighting, even though there are lots of flowers in our garden.

Deedee, one way to discourage finches and other larger birds is to mount your feeder on a post so they can't tip it to drink.

John, though the BBS protocol probably under-detects most hummingbird species, it still might show population trends. Our populations have almost certainly suffered from more than a decade of drought, but I'm cautiously optimistic that the increased observations this year represent a positive response to last summer's generous rains.

7/11/2008 1:02 AM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Lots of Annas here, but I've only seen one Rufous all summer. :(

7/11/2008 2:00 AM  
Anonymous Laura J said...

Lasy year in Henniker, NH, I had at least three pairs, this year only one as far as I can make out. Fewer woodthrush and veeries, too.

Listing is fun but I really like to enjoy the birds I get to watch - I would be hard put to leave a good place just for a glimpse of a novelty. The crossbill video was lots of fun: thank you.

7/11/2008 5:18 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

Hey Birdchick,

No shortage here in East VA that I have noticed. I’ve actually had more at my feeder and flowers this year than last (Ruby-throated hummers). I hope the reports your hearing of their decline out west this year is nothing serious. Keep us updated!


7/11/2008 6:06 AM  
Blogger Phelony Jones said...

Last week I got buzzed by a hummingbird as I was taking things out of my car. I might not know where they are, but they sure know where I am.

7/11/2008 6:33 AM  
Blogger KatDoc said...

I've had a shortage of ruby-throated hummingbirds this year as compared to last, when I had a bumper crop, but I thought that was my fault.

In 2007, I had between 4 and 7 feeders going at any one time, all clustered together around the gazebo of my front deck, and I was innudated with hummers, filling at least two of the feeders every night.

This year, I have only gotten around to setting out one feeder, and I let it run dry for days on end, so I am seeing a lot less.

Birders in the Cincinnati area and on the Ohio listserv are commenting about seeing less hummingbirds this year.


7/11/2008 6:49 AM  
Blogger Birdbutch said...

I live in Indiana and last year on a daily basis I would have 7-10 hummers constantly at the feeders. This year I only have 3.

7/11/2008 7:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Connecticut it is about the usual for me, maybe slightly better, but at this time in the season that means a max of one bird ever fifteen minutes but mostly slower than that. We never see more until migration starts.

Likewise, at least around here, there is a tendency for people to remember the abundance during migration last year, compare it to the slowness of the current year's breading season, and start to worry.

7/11/2008 7:23 AM  
Blogger NCmountainwoman said...

Significant decrease in western NC. Everyone's talking about it.

7/11/2008 7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Indianapolis it seems like there are fewer visits to the feeders, and it's usually by a male. I'm hoping their activity picks up as the summer goes on--I do love those little emerald gems.

7/11/2008 7:43 AM  
OpenID raven-feathers said...

no change here in central vermont. we've got our usual four or five individuals coming to the feeder.

7/11/2008 8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen tons of hummingbirds, not at feeders (because I don't have any!), but plenty of them out and about it seems like...


7/11/2008 8:59 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Had 5-6 pair last year but had only one pair this spring for a few days. Haven't seen any in 6 weeks or so.

7/11/2008 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Lianne said...

I'm in San Diego and I've been delighted with the number of hummingbirds in my yard. Then again, I'm new to the area, so this is my first time to encounter them in my yard in any way. I've got at least six Annas in regular attendance: three guarding the feeders and at least three frequent challengers. I had a nest in my yard, too, but a storm knocked it awry. Luckily I was able to contact a licensed hummingbird rehabber and she took the babies to finish raising, so they should be fine.

PS - Thanks for the heads-up about the San Diego Bird Festival next year... I didn't know about it, and will definitely be there!

7/11/2008 11:32 AM  
Blogger Beverly said...

Wow, that doesn’t seem to be the case here in Southern Colorado. Way back early in May they started coming…someone even thought I had a Calliope Hummingbird visiting then; though I’ve never been able to confirm that, nor seen a male. I have, however, identified several-many pair of both Broad-tailed (those buzzy, little guys), Black-chinned (the tail-pumpers), and the gorgeous, bronzed-brown Rufus Hummingbirds which seem to glint gold when the light is just right.

I regularly see three or four of the little things at a single feeder; and I keep five such feeders (cleaned and refreshed daily as the weather heats up; fermented or cloudy nectar will kill).

7/11/2008 11:33 AM  
Blogger Leanne said...

I'm in the Quad Cities, Illinois - and my neighbor across the street asked me if I noticed their absence, but I am still seeing them just as much as I always have. I have one identifiable male and at least 3 females.

Maybe for us the difference is between store & home made nectar (she uses store, I make mine). I also have many, many hummingbird attracting plants/flowers in my yard.

7/11/2008 1:31 PM  
Blogger donaldthebirder said...

I would say that I have a decline in hummers in SW Ohio as well. I agree with the idea of the birds getting a late start on nesting. I had a young RTHU at my feeder into October of last year that was still molting. Here is the link to the post. Odd hummer post

7/11/2008 1:39 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

In Indy at our feeders I've noticed the same number as usual, but it's hard to get a total. Typically, no more than 2 visit at the same time or a fight breaks out.

7/11/2008 4:52 PM  
Blogger Beverly said...

FYI…this just in from my buddy Bill ( who’s in Abq, New Mexico:

“Although my Black-chins were a couple days earlier this year, their numbers were noticeably fewer for the first month. Now there are about the same number as last year. I have three feeders hung and go through at least 64 oz. of sugar water a day.

Last year I had about 4 Rufous and two Calliope that arrived on July 19th. I'm watching carefully for their return. I only had one Broad-tailed last year off and on in the fall.” ~July 11, 2008

Apparently he gets something like twenty (20!) Black-chins plus a few Rufus, Calliope and Broadtails… If you visit his website, you'll see he keeps scrupulous records. Check out his stunning photos:

I’ve never seen the Rufus photographed so beautifully!

7/11/2008 5:11 PM  
Blogger Mary Hughes Studio said...

I'm in central, western Michigan and though it seemed they came a bit later than last year we seem to have as many as last year. They come to our window nectar feeder regularly all day long. We're in the country on a lake and see an abundance of all kinds of birds.

7/11/2008 10:59 PM  
OpenID gatofish said...

I live on the Gulf Coast of AL and there has been a severe lack of hummingbirds this year. I put out my feeders and weeks went by without one visiting. I also planted some flowers for them, but haven't seen a single one. I've since taken down the feeder since I didn't want to feed the ants and the yellow jackets.

7/12/2008 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in the Finger Lakes of NYS. I'am seeing fewer but that is normal for right now in a few weeks when the immatures show up it will be crazy around my pond, and flower gardens. I have very few butterflies so far this summer. JANET in NYS

7/12/2008 7:25 PM  
Blogger JanYou said...

Here in middle Tenn. we all are wondering why is there such a shortage of hummer sightings. They usually come in late April. Here it is mid July, and only a very few hummingbirds in the Nashville area. I changed from 10 year old glass feeders, to plastic feeders. I thought maybe they didn't like the new feeders. After a terrible storm yesterday (July 12, 2008) I finally saw 2 hummers at 2 different feeders. I miss my friends:( Can anyone explain what has happened to them?

7/13/2008 5:13 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

Here on Cape Cod, I'm seeing the usual numbers of Ruby Throats; we have three distinct identifiable males and at least two (mabye three) females coming to the nectar feeders.

I state this with confidence, because I keep an eye on them all day from our live streaming hummer cam!

7/14/2008 9:14 AM  
Blogger Marty said...

I'm in Mission KS (Kansas City Area). Last year at this time I (along with my neighbors on either side) had 7 red-throats visiting our feeders/and gardens about 3 times a day. We were up to 11 of them by the time we pulled the feeders Labor Day weekend. We've had "bird parties" for the past 2 summers each evening in my front yard taking pictures and hanging out in lawn chairs from about 6:00 to dusk. This year, I'm the only one to have had a siting - a hummer whizzed past my head in early May as I gardened. Out went our feeders, but still no hummers!! I'm afraid to search the net too much - I don't want to see that I may not be getting my wonderful visits this year. :(

7/16/2008 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in south central Louisiana. Last year I had 4 hummer feeders. I had so many hummers that I lost count at over 200 of them.They were captivating and beautiful. This year I've only had one male hummer show up for only 2 days and never to be seen again. Was wondering what the problem might be!!! I really do miss them.
Thank you,

7/21/2008 1:55 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

I live in upstate New York near Poughkeepsie. My hummer numbers are down SIGNIFICANTLY this year. Normally at this time I have 4 feeders going and fill them every night. For the last few years I was going through a gallon of nectar a week in July and August. This year I have one feeder out and it doesn't even get emptied in a week. I think we only have one pair. I'm sure in past years we had 20 or even more. I miss them!!! Where are they?

7/24/2008 6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Indianapolis and haven't seen ONE SINGLE HUMMER this year yet!!! I don't understand....all my flowers are blooming beautifully and they are very abundant. I have 3 feeders in the yard and there has been no activity. No visitors to any of the flower beds. I have a small tract of woods behind the house where they nest and fly out of, so their habitat is intact and same as last few years. Weird....I sure am missing the li'l guys.

7/24/2008 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They seem overall to be about three weeks later than the past few years.

I live in Central Missouri, and at any time there are about 30 birds gathered around our 8 feeders. I'd estimate 25% are ruby-throated.

We generally have to fill the feeders 2 or 3 times a day to keep up with demand. The birds so used to us that they'll land on our hands and fingers while we're hanging the feeders back up after refilling.

They'll also perch on my laptop screen for a few seconds if I happen to be working outside.

So we've observed no decline in population here, but I speculate that the awful weather we've had in the midwest may contribute to changes in the migratory patterns this year.

7/25/2008 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have not seen a hummer all the month of July. Lots of flowers and fresh supply of nectar in feeder but no hummingbirds. I had some visitors early in May and June but way down from numbers last year. Where can they be and what's causing this decline in sightings.I'm located in Southern Ontario.

7/27/2008 8:47 PM  
Blogger JanYou said...

Reporting from middle Tennessee!!! After a bad evening thunderstorm on July 12, our hummingbirds came back:) We normally see our first hummers the end of April and they stay. We did see the scout in April, and then nothing. No visits from our beloved hummingbirds. Plenty of flowers, and 3 brand new feeders, with fresh nectar. It took a bad storm to bring our friends back. We have lots of those little guys at all 3 feeders now. Sure missed seeing them here in Tenn. Glad they came back, for they provide alot of enjoyment for us. Hope the rest of you have good luck on the return of your hummingbirds.

7/28/2008 4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I have a sharp decline in hummingbirds this year in Springfield, IL. Last year we had so many we were able to band some of them in the back yard. This year I have only seen two visits to my feeders. We are very frustrated because I look forward to this time of year, also my flowers are the best this year for hummers.

8/24/2008 3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I have a sharp decline in hummingbirds this year in Springfield, IL. Last year we had so many we were able to band some of them in the back yard. This year I have only seen two visits to my feeders. We are very frustrated because I look forward to this time of year, also my flowers are the best this year for hummers.

8/24/2008 3:44 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

I live in Kansas, and I, too, was concerned that there were so few hummingbirds this year as compared with the last two, in which there were so many. However, in the last week they have shown up in droves. We can't even sit on our front porch without being dive-bombed by so many competing over our feeders. I don't know why they arrived so late, but I am glad they are here now!

9/21/2008 4:38 PM  

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