Glenn Robertson and the Texas Hummingbird Roundup

September 1, 2011

Glenn Robertson is one of Duncraft’s photographers and recently sent us this report about his activities with hummingbirds and the Texas Hummingbird Roundup.  We weren’t able to find any other states that have a Roundup like this, but if you’re interested in participating in reporting hummingbird sightings, you can report them at Journey North. http://www.learner.org/jnorth Thanks Glenn for sharing your hummingbird activities.  Glenn also photographed the images in this article for us–just beautiful!

Two years ago, my wife and I attended the Rockport Hummingbird Festival in Rockport, Texas. It is a yearly event which celebrates the migration of hummingbirds to the Gulf Coast in preparation for their flight to Mexico. While at the festival, I was asked if I would participate in The Texas Hummingbird Roundup. This is a scientific survey of hummingbirds which migrate through Texas. I live in a county which needed a volunteer to help report on hummingbird sightings. As a photographer, I already had an interest in hummingbirds. Joining the Hummingbird Roundup granted me the opportunity to learn even more about these fascinating birds.

As a volunteer, I try to spend about fifteen minutes a day observing hummingbirds. I count the number of hummingbirds which come to the feeder and identify them by species and gender. The idea is to try to capture a snapshot of what hummingbirds are doing in a few minutes. I also observe to see if I can note any peculiar species which might come by.

When I first began counting hummingbirds I was only aware of two species: the Ruby-throated and the Buff-bellied hummingbirds. In DeWitt County, Texas (Gulf region) we have several species which migrate through the area, and some even winter here. In my area, Ruby Throats arrive in late March and leave by May, being replaced by Black-chins.  Black-chins remain for the Summer along with the Buff-bellied hummingbird. Ruby-throats reappear in August as migration gets underway. During this time, we also see Rufous and sometimes a few other species.

I use two books to help me identify hummingbirds, which I also highly recommend: Hummingbirds of North America by Sheri L. Williamson (Peterson Field Guides) and Hummingbirds of North America, The Photographic Guide, by Steve N. G. Howell. Sheri lists 31 species of hummingbirds which live in North America. 19 species have been observed in Texas. A few rare species come up from the tropics, but are not observed regularly. However, the Buff-bellied is believed to be a tropical bird which has now made its home in South Texas and may be migrating across the Gulf region. In DeWitt County, I have observed the Buff-bellied and an occasional Rufous staying for Winter. In freezing weather, it is a challenge to keep a feeder supplied.

There are challenges in identifying the hummingbirds as well. Males are fairly easy to identify if their colored gorgets (throats) are visible. However, the females often look alike. I usually will stand about three feet from a feeder and try to look at wing and tail patterns in females to help me make identifications. In the Fall, juvenile males will have white tips on the tails like females, but they will also have a few colored specks in their new forming gorgets. A female Rufous, though, will have a colored spot in her throat like a male. Her tail pattern distinguishes her from juvenile males. All of this is found in the two books mentioned above.

If you would like to learn more about hummingbirds, I encourage you to get the books and start making close observations. Get in close to the feeders. As long as you remain still, you can stand very close to the feeders. Hummingbirds are fun to watch and they have much to teach us about their nature.

Glenn Robertson

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Charlene September 26, 2011 at 9:38 pm

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