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November will bring back hummingbirds

It’s almost November, and that means it’s time to talk hummingbirds. New readers may think it is an odd time of year to be discussing hummers. Not so.

As November wears on, the likelihood of a hummingbird visiting you will increase. Keep your feeders up and maintained. Watch for fleeting visitors or dropping water levels, especially after the passage of strong cold fronts.

Last November I received a dozen messages that hummingbirds had arrived after the passage of an unusually strong front in the middle of the month. By New Years Day I had records of more than 35 hummingbirds visiting feeders in the area. Some birds decided to move on after a day or so, but some ended up staying almost until April, departing just in time for the ruby-throateds to return.

For the most part, our ruby-throated hummingbirds departed the southern Piedmont around Oct. 11. The water level in my feeder hasn’t moved since then. There may be a few ruby-throated stragglers, but those will almost certainly be moving on soon. If you are still seeing a hummingbird at your feeder, you need to take a close look at it. Any hummingbird seen in Mecklenburg County after Nov. 1 is much more likely to be a species that has flown in from the Western United States. I suspect there are some of these long-range visitors with some of you right now. Please let me know if you are still seeing one.

The most likely species that you might see will be the rufous hummingbird. Males are pretty unmistakable, being almost all red. The females and immature birds, which are the most likely to be seen, are more challenging to identify. Look for some reddish coloring on the flanks and around the tail. If you get one, take a photo and send it to me.

I will be writing more about wintering hummingbirds as the season goes on, providing updates on numbers and locations. In the meantime, visit my blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com for a comparison of photos of the rufous hummingbird and ruby-throated hummingbird.