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Rufous Hummingbird - November 21, 2006

Rufous Hummingbird at McDonald, Washington County, PA
This beautiful adult female Rufous Hummingbird was present at a McDonald, PA home since mid-October 2006 before the (non-birding) homeowners contacted the Audubon Society of Western PA on 20-Nov and asked what they should do about it. The answer - keep the feeders out and unfrozen! Word spread quickly among local birders and the homeowners welcome all comers while the bird is still present.
This is the first record of Rufous Hummingbird in Washington County, which is an exciting enough fact in its own right but pales in comparison to the stunning secret this bird was keeping. On 22-Nov, Bob Mulvihill and Felicity Newell, field researchers at Powdermill Nature Reserve, trapped the bird in order to band it, take measurements, and confirm the identification as a Rufous. I was lucky enough to be present for the attempt. Needless to say, we were all shocked when Bob pulled the bird out of the trap and announced, "It's already banded!" This was the first recovery of a Rufous by the staff at Powdermill and one of only a few for the entire northeastern United States.


The number on the band reads N-71927. Word of this recapture spread across the country very quickly, and by 24-Nov it was known that the bird had originally been captured in the deep south. On 28-Nov, Powdermill publicized the full details. Quoting a post by Adrienne Leppold (also of Powdermill) to the PABIRDS listserv:
"[She] was banded in Diamond Head, MS on 25 Jan. 2006 by Mark Myers. She was recorded as a healthy adult female then, much as she was last week when she was recaptured. This was a great recapture because it helps confirm a lot of speculation that these PA birds are, in fact, northern tier stopover migrants that are on their way to the SE U.S. for the winter."
Though still technically speculation that would benefit from more recovery data before acceptance as a factual phenomenon, I find this theory to be the most logical of all possible explanations for the sudden and astounding increase in Rufous Hummingbird occurrence in the eastern United States. This recaputure does indeed go a long way in support of this idea. It will be very interesting to see if this bird returns to the same Mississippi feeder at which she was found last January. Now if we can only confirm where exactly she spends the breeding season....



Unless explicitly indicated otherwise in the photo caption, all photos on this website were taken by and are 2003-2013 by Geoff Malosh. Unauthorized usage of these photographs for any purpose is strictly forbidden. If you are interested in using any photo for publication or if you are interested in obtaining a print, contact me at pomarine -AT- earthlink -DOT- net.