Can you save my hummingbird?
I live in Sparta, Wisconsin, and developed an amazing friendship with a little female ruby-throated hummingbird this summer. I named her Costa Rica, and I made her a swing that she claimed as her own. She would come to me when I called her name or copied her calls. She would search for me as I was out in the yard and come up to my face as if to say, "What are you doing?"
I thought it was a blessing, but now I'm afraid I have done her wrong. It is now November, and I thought she had migrated in early October. But on November 6th, I saw her on her swing by a feeder I still had out. I was following advice to keep feeders out for migratory hummers passing through, but now I am afraid that by doing so, I have stopped my little Costa Rica from migrating. She will never survive our brutal Wisconsin winters. What can I do for her? Please help.
Monroe County Wisconsin
Thank you for your question. Hummingbirds and other avian species migrate on the basis of instinct, weather, and resource accessibility. The sugar syrup in a hummingbird feeder is supplemental food and not the primary food source for hummingbirds. When their main food source, usually insects, decreases to the point where there is not an adequate food supply, the hummingbirds will migrate. Experts recommend keeping your feeder out for several weeks after you've seen the last hummingbird, just in case there are stragglers who could use some food as they make their way south. Your friend should be fine.
For additional information on hummingbirds, Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology is an excellent resource for all species of hummingbirds. Here's the link to the page on ruby-throated hummingbirds: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/ruby-throated_hummingbird/lifehistory.
I hope this answers your question, and thank you for using Ask an Expert.