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....