We received our order of hummingbirds now that the cold weather has broken and all the native wildflowers have broken bud. It seems like the delivery driver always knows when the current bushes start blooming. Last week we had 4 strong male Calliope and Broad-tailed hummingbirds braving the cold. They were surviving the sub-freezing nights by eating the tiny fruit flies that are flittering around the apple tree and tanking up on sweet nectar and our sugar water. Overnight our numbers exploded as the first wave of migrants came home. Simultaneously we saw 10 different species of wildflowers bloom. Suddenly we were putting up multiple feeders to keep up with the hive of activity from all the “hangry” hummers. About 30 birds showed up yesterday. I expect another 30-40 will arrive in the brown truck today.
Whether you are an experienced birder or just out for a fun morning watching hummingbirds, birding at Rudeen Ranch can be interesting. In either case, bring binoculars, camera and a bird book, if you have them. Sorry to say that your bird identification Aps probably won't work as there is no cell service at the house.
A Mountain Blue bird family and House Wrens are using nest boxes on the side of the house. If we are lucky, the birds should be busy catching insects and feeding their crews despite the crowd. Although Mama Bluebird tends to be shy, the demands of her hungry youngsters causes her to keep up her duties. Watch her slip in and out of the birdhouse quickly and quietly.
Other common birds that may be seen in the yard include Violet Green Swallows, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, catbirds and flycatchers. Occasionally beautiful Western Tanagers and Lazuli Buntings show up with colors so bright it will knock your socks off.
Watch also for several species of woodpeckers in the trees. Cute little Downy Woodpeckers and their larger cousin the Hairy Woodpecker can be seen in the aspen trees, or you might spot a Red-Naped Sapsucker or Northern Flicker. Watch the sky for Red-Tailed Hawks and Kestrels. If you are lucky, a Wake of Turkey Vultures may float overhead.
Don't forget to watch for birds on your way up the road, too. Great Horned Owls, Northern Harriers and Swainson's Hawks are common near Indian Springs and Golden Eagles are often spotted near the first cattle guard.
KEEP LOOKING UP!
Let the show begin-
On feeder number 1, not one, not two, but three pint-sized Calliope males perform daring dives from death defying heights to dazzle a dainty, demure female.
On feeder number 2, a bodacious Broad-Tailed male, batters and bullies the other birds to guard his yard.
And this is merely the first day of another hummingbird season in SE Idaho. Though keeping up with filling so many feeders is a big job, we feel lucky to enjoy and share these amazing "jewels of the sky."
Camping and swimming and ice cream... OH, MY!
Make a day or a weekend of it and stop by Indian Springs after your hummingbird encounter. Our neighborhood pool has a friendly, family atmosphere and lovely, 92 degree water. Enjoy ice cream or a great burger off the grill. and watch for birds on their grounds. Can you spot the Belted Kingfisher family? For camping reservations call (208) 226-7700.
A few hummingbirds start arriving in April, depending upon your location in Idaho. By early May, the trickle becomes a flood as birds arrive from their wintering grounds. Males arrive first to claim feeding sites and to set up breeding territories.
My feeders are up now and ready and for any early visitors. They always arrive hungry!
The safest formula for feeder nectar is 1 part plain white table sugar to 4 parts water. This approximates the natural sucrose content of flowers. Never use brown or raw sugar, as they contain iron which is bad for the birds' kidneys. Ditto for Honey, which ferments rapidly and may contain bacteria harmful to hummingbirds. Red dye is not only unnecessary to attract hummingbirds, it is likely to be toxic in the amounts that the birds consume. Boiling the water is optional, but it helps the sugar dissolve quicker.
Please clean your feeders regularly. In cool weather, they might be okay for a week. In hot weather, change the water every 2 or 3 days. If the nectar is cloudy or smells bad, it is already too old. Black mold on your feeder is deadly to these tiny birds.
Do you have a bully in your yard? Male hummers tend to defend and dominate "their" feeders. Attract more hummingbirds by giving them a chance to feed. It's better to put out several small feeders than 1 large one. Consider feeders with bee guards and ant moats, too.
And be sure to set out a chair in the yard where you can enjoy your beautiful visitors.
congratulations to Elise Faike on her article about hummingbird banding in Idaho. It's kinda fun to see our banding work mentioned in a national magazine. The article was published in the May 2017 issue of the American Birding Association Birder's Guide. Check it out here: http://bg.aba.org/i/826890-may-2017/2
We had a great year at the 2017 Hummingbird Roundup. Special thanks to our trapping crew and all those who helped out. They did an exceptional job interacting with the visitors and handling birds in a safe manner. Thanks to Tim Rudeen who gave rides up the hill to so many. We received nothing but complements about this year's roundup.
It is always great fun to collaborate with banders Stacy Jon Peterson, Palmer, Alaska, and Heidi Ware from IBO (Intermountain Bird Observatory). They always make each visitor feel special and help teach about hummingbirds and the environment. We learn a lot from both of them every year.
This year's birds:
360 newly banded birds
242 returns This is an amazingly high 40% return rate!
258 Calliope 72% of all newly banded birds
Broad-Tailed 42 males, 35 females
Black-Chinned 13 males, 12 females
Interesting birds and observations:
8 year old birds: 2 Black-Chinned females and 2 Broad-Tailed females
A 7 year old Calliope female has been captured every year since her banding in 2011.
A 5 year old Black-Chinned female had 6-8 large, black feathers on the bottom row of her throat area.
During these busy spring and summer days, we count our hummingbirds by their daily sugar consumption. We have officially used 100 pounds of the sweet stuff since our first bird arrived on April 7! We typically feed around 400 pounds of white sugar during hummingbird season.
A few years ago, Stacy Jon Peterson figured a way to estimate your hummingbird population. Roughly, one quart of sugar water mixed 1 part sugar to 4 parts water would feed 250 birds in a day. This is assuming that the birds meet their caloric needs only with feeders. We know, of course, that hummers catch lots of tiny insects, feed on flower nectar, and even feed on tree sap from Sapsucker wells.
More hummers seem to be showing up daily and we are filling 8 feeders a day. Using Stacy's formula, there may be 2000 or more of these little sugarholics at our ranch.
Just a reminder: to keep the birds at your feeders healthy and coming back for more, please keep your feeders clean and replace the water often. Make your own sugar water using white sugar 1 to 4 with water. Commercial "nectar" contains red dye and other chemicals that aren't healthy for the birds. Plus, it is expensive.
It is widely acknowledged that male hummingbirds love the ladies. Love 'em and leave 'em keeps these boys busy. And, maybe the female hummers are content to nest and raise their 2 babies on their own while the males are out chasing around.
So... it's not surprising that these wild and crazy birds are occasionally attracted to exotic females from other hummingbird species. Idaho records in the last few years have documented the offspring of Calliopes with the other 4 species seen in Idaho: Black-Chinned, Broad-Tailed, Rufous, and Anna's.
In 2013 we banded 3 male Broad-Tailed X Calliope hybrids. (See photo on home page). One bird showed up at our Roundup in 2014, and all three appeared again in 2015. A suspected hybrid showed up at our feeder on May 4th. We are hoping to catch them again this year.
Hybrids are usually spotted because they look unique. Their characteristics are often mid way between the 2 species. This spring I caught a Calliope X Rufous male near Moscow, ID. His throat patch bore some resemblance to a Calliope's in shape, and was an unusual iridescent rose and flaming orange. He was the size of a very large Calliope. The shape of his tail feathers said "Calliope" but they were colored with lots of orange like a Rufous female.
BAM! The party has started! On Friday 4/28 we had a pair of Calliopes at the ranch. By Sunday afternoon there were too many of the glittering little boys to count. The males usually show up first to claim their territories, then they wait for the demure females to arrive. While they wait, they spend their time feeding and sparring with their frat brothers.
Listen carefully and you will notice that the males of each species produce distinctive sounds as they fly. The pointed outer feathers on a Broad-Tailed male's wings produce a ringing, bell-like tone. Rufous definitely have a metallic buzz. And Calliopes put the "hum" in hummingbird.
How did he do it? On April 7, our astounding Broad-Tailed male J-98804, was first to arrive again this year! Despite the snow and cold at the ranch, he visited the feeder regularly then headed out to catch bugs. What a testament to his toughness, tenacity, and instincts.
His arrival is also a clear demonstration of "site fidelity", the tendency of hummingbirds to return to places where they have successfully bred and fed. 4/30 update: Still here!
Our research on Anna's hummingbirds in Idaho was published in September 2016 in the scientific journal Western Birds. The publication documents Fred Bassett's very important capture of a pregnant Anna's hummingbird in Council, Idaho in 2015 and this bird's recapture in 2016. An Anna's x Calliope Hybrid was also caught at the same location in 2016! Bassett's records are the first documentation of Anna's breeding in the state! The article also chronicles the range expansion of Anna's Hummingbirds into Idaho.
Rudeen, C. and F. Bassett. 2016. Apparent Breeding by Anna’s Hummingbird in Idaho. Western Birds 47:237–241, doi 10.21199/WB47.3.6
Our wet spring has produced a wildflower explosion in the mountains. Hillsides are green and the flower display is excellent. Enjoy the Lewis Flax as you head up the Cold Creek Road. Farther up you will see Indian Paintbrush, False Lupine, and more.
We have seen an explosion in our hummingbird population, also. Kent is busy cleaning and filling 4 quart feeders a day. By roundup time, we will have at least a dozen feeders up! These hungry hummers are buzzing through 400 pounds of sugar a summer.
Dress for mountain weather. If it is cool in town, expect it to be cooler at the ranch.
A brave and daring Broad-tailed male hummingbird set a new record at Rudeen Ranch, arriving the evening of April 8. J98804 was banded as an adult, June 1, during the 2015 Hummingbird Roundup.
The male Broad-tailed is easy to identify with his brilliant emerald back and red gorget (throat). However, the easiest identifier is the distinctive whistling noise he makes when he flies. This sound is created by the pointed end of his P10, or outside primary (wing) feather.
Broad-tailed hummingbirds are recognized as early migrants and they are sometimes seen in the mountains when there is snow on the ground. These birds will feed on insects and spiders and will also use the tree sap from sapsucker holes if no flower nectar is available.
Have you heard the buzz about Anna's Hummingbirds in Idaho? In the last 10 years, more and more Anna's have been showing up at Gem State feeders throughout the year. This (rather chilly) November, Carl and I banded 2 birds in American Falls, one in Heyburn and one in Twin Falls. In January I was thrilled to band a very healthy juvenile male in north Idaho, at Hayden.
The Intermountain Bird Observatory in Boise has conducted a project monitoring wintering Anna's this fall and winter. They have banded and documented around 40 birds in the Boise area. Check out the "Idaho Birding" Facebook page to see pictures of a gorgeous male Anna's that has been showing courtship behavior- singing and making aerial dives... in March!
Anna's hummingbirds appear to be establishing themselves as the fifth hummingbird species in Idaho. If you see any indications of an Anna's nesting this spring, please report it to the Intermountain Bird Observatory. www.iob.boisestate.edu
2 camera SD cards were found on the grass after the 2015 banding. You have cute grandkids and live near Preston/Soda Springs. One card is a 1 GB with photos from 2009-10. The other was a new 64 GB card.
Please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim them.
Hummingbird migration in our area is at its peak from mid-July through mid-August. First to arrive are the Rufous hummingbirds who travel from as far away as the Prince Williams Sound area of Alaska. These little orange guys are loud and pugnacious, tending to stir up trouble at the feeders. A gleaming orange and gold adult male Rufous is an unforgettable sight!
We banded 371 new birds this year and had 212 returning birds who were banded in previous years. The 2015 total was 583 hummingbirds. Calliopes were the major species banded. There were also many Broad-tailed hummingbirds and a few Black-chinned. One Rufous female was also captured and banded on Sunday.
Interesting and unusual birds: Several birds banded in 2008 were recaptured this year. They were banded as adults so we consider them to be at least 1 year old at the time of banding. These 2008 birds, therefore, would be at least 8 years old.
Two male Calliope/Broad-tailed hybrid hummingbirds that were originally banded in 2013 were recaptured this year. Hybridization between hummingbird species has been well documented. When an unusual bird is found, body measurements and coloration help make the determination. These birds, for example, had solid throat gorgets, like a Broad-tailed, but the color was more like a Calliope. The birds had short tails like Calliopes and were midway between the two species in most other measurements. Another method to determine hybrids is to take a DNA sample on a feather, although we are not licensed to do that test.
A number of female hummers were found to have eggs in their tummies and/or worn tails from nest building. This indicates that nesting season at the ranch is underway.
We were excited to learn that bander Fred Bassett caught one of our birds at Inman Canyon near Inkom, Idaho on Monday. We banded Broad-tailed female # J 53434 at the ranch in 2014
Thanks to all who attended for your patience and courtesy while waiting and asking questions. This is the first year we have counted people at the banding and we were amazed that over 1100 people attended. We think things ran smoothly for such a large, informal event. It was fun for the staff to meet everyone and to share their love and knowledge of hummingbirds.
Lots of Southeast Idaho people attended, and many made the trip from as far away as Meridian, Idaho; Clarkston, Washington; Colorado; Phoenix, Arizona; Ogden, St. George, and Salt Lake City, Utah; and Big Sky, Montana. We were the first stop for a honeymooning couple from North Dakota. Did someone say "New Zealand"? Kudos to the girl scout leaders and all the parents who recognize the importance of connecting their children with nature.
Our wonderful staff included licensed hummingbird banders Fred Bassett from Alabama, Carl Rudeen from Mountain Home, Idaho, and Stacy Peterson from Alaska. We also appreciate all our trained helpers; from the Audubon Society, Becky O'Neil and Kindra Shaw; Master Naturalists Pam and Roger Mayes; Dana Thurston, Linda Dieffenbach, Tenille Rudeen, Tim and Deb Rudeen, Cameron and Tayler Peterson, and Forrest Ames. Special thanks to Bill Thurston from Yuma, Arizona who stood in the sun all day to direct traffic.
To everyone who brought sugar or donated to the banders' fund, we think you are sweet.
Kent and Francine Rudeen
We've got hummers! The usual suspects, Calliopes, Broad Tails and Blackchins are here in abundance. Last night there were so many hummingbirds that we added 2 feeders, making a total of 13. The birds are consuming about 2 gallons of sugar water a day. We have fed close to 100 lbs. of sugar already.
The weather for the banding should be perfect. Don't forget sunscreen and water!