Monday, October 6, 2014

Rufous Hummingbird Wows Minnesota Birders

Rufous Hummingbird in Le Sueur, Minnesota
As Lillian Stokes mentioned in her last post, fall migration is a time when western hummingbird species can show up far east of their normal range.  Lillian mentioned that one such species is the Rufous Hummingbird.  As proof of this point, a male Rufous Hummingbird showed up at the hummingbird feeders of some birders in southern Minnesota this past month.  It was the second Rufous Hummingbird in Minnesota in as many years, but it was only the 13th RUHU in MN overall. This year's visiting RUHU was a gorgeous adult male, only the 4th adult male to visit our state.  
Because this hummingbird was coming reliably to the feeders of this particular home, dozens of birders made the trek to see it.  For some it was a state bird, and for others it was a brand new addition to their life lists.  I, too, decided to make the two-hour trip to see this bird.  I had seen the ABA bird-of-the-year earlier in the year in both Arizona and Colorado, but it was such a close, reliable, and darn good-looking bird, that adding it to my Minnesota list was a good excuse to go. Plus, my 7-year-old birding son had never seen it.
The homeowners were the most gracious folks I've met, truly embodying the aura of Minnesota-nice. They were there to greet you with a handshake and have you sign their guestbook, a plain notebook where a numbered list of birders showed us that we were visitors #94 and #95.  Unfortunately we got down to the site too late in the day, and we missed seeing the Rufous by just three minutes.  It apparently had retired for the night.  This caused a small amount of angst for the homeowner who was very proud that everyone who visited had seen the bird. It was a heart-breaker.  
But we rebounded and made the same trip two days later.  By now the list of birders was well over 130.  Thankfully we did not repeat our earlier results.  It took 15 minutes or so, but the Rufous Hummingbird finally came out to the feeder.  What a dazzler this bird is!
Rufous Hummingbird
The Rufous had been very aggressive in previous days, chasing away any and all Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that dared to go near HIS feeder.  The day we visited, however, no RTHU attempted to feed there, and the RUHU was considerably less active, only showing every 15-20 minutes. It was a delight each time we saw it, regardless of how brief that was.
Trees loaded with apples are a beautiful sight in the fall - how much more so when a Rufous Hummingbird is nestled among its branches!
Rufous Hummingbird
Though our sightings were brief, it was nice of the sun and the bird to cooperate for a moment to give me a shot of RUHU's beautiful gorget.
Rufous Hummingbird
We had unusually warm, summer weather this September and so this Rufous Hummingbird came reliably to this same feeder for nearly two weeks.  It is a gorgeous bird that provided life-long memories for the many people who came to see this wonderful vagrant from the west.


  1. Pretty special moment to be sure! When these guys come to Arizona, they come in huge charms! And they can be aggressive. Hope this one does well:)

  2. I think they are pretty cool birds. How fortunate that you get to see them on a regular basis! One never knows how these vagrant birds do after their far-flung vacations, but this one was fat and happy for the two weeks he was here!

  3. Are you kidding, you guys are excited about one of the most common city birds around. You want an incredible bird take the Blue Jay of 2004 now there was a phenomenal bird sighting. Seriously though while I remove my tongue from my cheek. The wonderful thing about a post like this or talking to birders from the other side of the country or even the world is to be reminded that what we take for granted every day can be exciting and new to someone else. Whether that is an easterner getting excited about non Ruby-throated Hummers or us westerners getting excited about Blue Jays or the even more amazing cardinals. Thanks for reminder to always be fascinated by the familiar.

    1. One man's junk is another man's treasure as they say. A bird's rarity is always relative to where one lives. That's what makes this such a fun hobby.

  4. Very cool bird so glad you got to see it. So many of these birds are showing up in the East, who knows where the next one will show up!

  5. I love your photography, and I so much appreciate you sharing your beautiful photos. Wonderful series here.

  6. Josh, I could feel your enthusiasm when reading this wonderful post. What a joy it must have been for you and others to see this tiny rare visitor to your state. Beautiful story. Fantastic post!