Rufous Hummingbird: Rare Winter Visitor to Swoope, VA

Rufous hummingbird. Photo courtesy of Carol Taylor.

A friend had an interesting experience with a Rufous hummingbird. I asked them to write about it and include some pictures. – Jason Hallacher, HMN Advisor

Maybe laziness can occasionally have its rewards? Our hummingbird feeder was frequented by bees after the departure of the Ruby-throated hummingbirds in October, so we decided to leave it hanging there for a while. Then I just didn’t notice it anymore. . . . .

Until November 17 when it took center stage. Out of the blue, there was a hummingbird drinking heartily. I scarcely believed my eyes Within minutes I replenished the thoroughly scoured feeder with fresh sugar water and the bird returned immediately. Aware of the approaching cold, we bought a couple of heat lamps to warm the feeders.

With the help of Allen Larner, who keeps the records at the Augusta Bird Club, we decided it was a male Rufous hummingbird, a rare winter visitor in Augusta County. The hummingbird became a constant delight and on December 8 we had a licensed bander from Delaware give him a leg band #J45254.

He also made the following observations:

Weight: 3.98 grams including about 1 gram of fat
Wing length 47.25 mm; Tail length 26 mm; Bill length 17.52 mm
Grooving on bill 80% (indicating the bird was born this year)

Amazingly, on November 13 another hummingbird joined the scene and stayed for a couple of days, but after considerable zooming and posturing, the first one chased him (her?) off. Christmas Day was memorable for its frigid temperatures necessitating bringing the feeders inside from time to time to thaw them.

The Rufous is still with us on December 29 In such crazed times, this tiny being has brought us so much joy. It feels like a harbinger of good things to come in 2021! It may also suggest that keeping feeders up through at least the beginning of winter could save a life.

By Carol Taylor