LBL Wildlife Report: Hummingbirds & Hummingbird Festival Weekend
In Sounds Good's next installment of the LBL Wildlife Report, Tracy Ross and Woodlands Nature Station lead naturalist John Pollpeter discuss hummingbirds ahead of the annual Hummingbird Weekend at Land Between the Lakes, which Pollpeter calls the nature station's "big, crowning achievement."
"Right now in Land Between the Lakes, we're getting to the peak of hummingbird migration," Pollpeter begins. "It's all the hummingbirds north of us, all the way from Canada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois. They're filtering down this way. Just like an interstate, they stop by the nature station to pick up some fast food in our hummingbird feeders."
The nature station can see up to 200 to 250 hummingbirds per day, and hundreds of people travel to see the spectacle, too. Pollpeter says that hummingbirds are so popular for a number of reasons.
"It's the smallest bird that's on earth. That in itself is pretty spectacular," he says. "They have these vibrant colors that refract light. They come to things that we also like, which are beautiful, which are flowers. They cause us no harm. They're very active. They flap their wings 80 times per second. The males, when they're trying to impress a female, try to do it 200 times per second. It's pretty impressive."
Hummingbirds are also popular because they're relatively comfortable around humans, making it easy to see the small, vibrant birds in your own backyard. Pollpeter says that while their iridescent feathers make them appear different colors, there is only one species of hummingbird that breeds and spends the majority of its time in the eastern and southern United States: the ruby-throated hummingbirds.
"During the winter months, there's a species called the Rufous hummingbird that's from Alaska that will winter in Kentucky," Pollpeter continues, "or a Black-chinned hummingbird that's from Colorado in the mountains. Our winters are equivalent to spring or fall in Alaska or the Colorado Rockies, so they can handle living here. But during the breeding season, which is April through October, there's only going to be one species."
Worldwide, Pollpeter says there are about 375 species of hummingbird, most of which live in the Amazon and Andes in South America. These species can be as small as the Bee hummingbird, which can sit on the top of a pencil eraser and is only found in Cuba. Or they can be as large as a robin, like some species found in the Andes.
The Woodlands Nature Station hosts a variety of events throughout the month of August celebrating hummingbirds, including hummingbird dinners, photography contests, and more. "If you want to get a good glimpse of a lot of hummingbirds, it's recommended to come early," Pollpeter says.
"During the middle of the day, when it's a little bit hotter, the hummingbirds tend to take a bit of a siesta, like we do. You'll still see some, but you won't see the majority of them. If you don't like crowds, believe me, the whole month of August we'll have lots of hummingbirds to enjoy. So, you can come, sit back, and visit the Nature Station and watch them buzz right by you."