‘It’s an early sign of spring’: Rufous hummingbird spotted in Victoria

'It's an early sign of spring': Rufous hummingbird spotted in Victoria
Ann Nightingale
Male Rufous hummingbirds have an orange gorget, compared to the fuchsia for Anna's hummingbirds. Female Rufous hummingbirds are smaller than Anna's.

A Rufous hummingbird sighting has been recorded in Victoria, which a local bird expert says is an early sign of spring.

Ann Nightingale, board member of the Rocky Point Bird Observatory, says there are two main types of hummingbirds in the Victoria area.

“We have the Anna’s hummingbird here all year round,” Nightingale said. “The Rufous hummingbird is a migratory bird, and it leaves over the course of the summer and then returns every spring. So it’s expected that we’ll start seeing them at the beginning of March in very small numbers but rapidly increasing towards the end of the month.”

She says a sighting of a Rufous hummingbird is a sign that spring is coming.

“It’s an early sign of spring, so it’s something that we look forward to every year,” Nightingale said. “They’re amazing birds and travel huge distances.”

The hummingbird sighting was recorded on the eBird website, which Nightingale says is a helpful tool for all birders.

“EBird is an amazing tool for people that are learning new birds and for people who are bird experts,” she said. “It’s probably the best thing that’s come along since field guides were created back in the early 20th century. So eBird is wonderful if you’re trying to look things up.”

When using the eBird website, Nightingale says B.C. is divided by regional district, so for the Victoria area search Capital, British Columbia.

Nightingale is involved in bird banding, and says in the region there have been signs of the same banded bird returning to the same are for eight years in a row.

“They do come back every year, and they come back not only to the general area, but to the same places that they were the previous year,” she said. “So for instance, if you have hummingbirds that come to your feeder, the ones that will come back this year will be the same ones that were there last year and the year before that.”

It is common to put out hummingbird feeders, and Nightingale says it’s important to make sure the feeders are clean and the right solution is used.

She says to use one part sugar to four parts water, and to make sure to use plain white sugar. She says using brown sugar and honey is not advised for the health of the birds.

“And keep your feeders clean,” she said. “Put out as much food as you think they can consume in just a few days and clean your feeders and replace the food regularly. Even if you’re not getting birds at the feeder, sugar water would go bad over time. Imagine if you put out a soft drink, would you really want to be drinking it four days later?”

Female Rufous hummingbirds look very similar to Anna’s hummingbirds, but Nightingale says the difference is  female Rufous have rust colours along their sides and are smaller than Anna’s.

Left is a female Anna’s hummingbird, right s a female Rufous hummingbird. (Ann Nightingale)

Male birds of the two species look different. When light hits the birds, male Rufous hummingbirds are brown with an orange-red gorget. Male Anna’s hummingbirds are green with a fuchsia gorget.

On the left is a male Anna’s hummingbird, right is a male Rufous hummingbird. (Ann Nightingale)

Nightingale also says Rufous hummingbirds tend to avoid urban areas and tend to prefer rural with native species. Anna’s hummingbirds are commonly found in both urban and rural settings.

Two baby hummingbirds in a nest.

Rufous hummingbird chicks. (Ann Nightingale)

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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