Nancy L. Newfield has been watching hummingbirds at her Louisiana home and lots of other places since 1975. Nancy lost her amateur status years ago, and now writes and lectures on hummers. She is co-author of Hummingbird Gardens, reviewed elsewhere on this site. Nancy is also a licensed hummingbird bander and a recognized authority on hummingbird distribution, behavior, and taxonomy.
Tired of seeing the same old hummers day after day? Well . . .
No matter how much you enjoy the birds at home, sooner or later you'll want a little variety. Easterners travel west to find Anna's Hummingbirds in California and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds in Colorado. You won't have to look hard to see hummers in those places.
And westerners can always spend a few days finding Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in Arkansas, Missouri, or the Carolinas. Timing is the key to success for all the migratory species. Late spring and early summer are prime times to catch the dazzling display flights of males. A long, relaxing weekend visiting Asphodel Plantation near St. Francisville, Louisiana, permits ample time to watch them at feeders on the spacious porch or buzzing around the abundant trumpet creeper, which festoons the trees.
Other good Ruby-throat locations are the High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, North Carolina, the Cliff House Inn near Jasper, Arkansas, Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, and the Montreal Botanical Gardens in Canada. If you want to see huge numbers of migrating hummers, mostly Ruby-throats, be sure to visit Rockport, Texas, in mid-September. Here, the towns of Rockport and Fulton have combined forces to produce a festivalthe annual Hummer/Bird Celebrationto highlight the thousands upon thousands of hummers that move through the area each year.
The mountains of southeastern Arizona host the most amazing assortment of hummingbird anywhere north of Mexico. And, the ardent hummer-watcher can have a fine time in many locales. The season runs May through September.
The best-known and best-publicized hummer hot spot is certainly Ramsey Canyon, in the Huachuca Mountains, just outside the city of Sierra Vista. Here hummer feeding has continued non-stop for more than 40 years. The list of species is impressive and includes some genuine rarities, such as White-eared Hummingbird and Berylline Hummingbird. You can stay at the Nature Conservancy's Ramsey Canyon Preserve or the Ramsey Canyon Bed and Breakfast and get the thrill of a lifetime before morning coffee.
Another of the great hummingbird canyons is Madera Canyon, in the Santa Rita Mountains, near Green Valley. Feeders scattered among the rustic cabins of the Santa Rita Lodge draw many of the same species seen at Ramsey. I had a wonderful visit with a rare (in the U.S.) Plain-capped Starthroat behind cabin #9 last August.
Plan a stop at the home of Wally and Marion Paton in Patagonia, too. A sign on the gate reads "Hummingbirders Welcome." This is the most reliable place in the United States to see the elegant Violet-crowned Hummingbird. Black-chinned and Broad-billed Hummingbirds abound as well.
For a closer-up look at the hummers of the Sonoran desert, you'll want to see the Hummingbird Aviary at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson. The nicely planted exhibit houses all the birds you've seen in the mountains. Many of the birds have bred in this facility.
Of course, finding hummers in the wild is the biggest thrill. Hike the trail to Comfort Spring from the top of Carr Canyon. In July, columbines and penstemons bring in numerous hummers. I was buzzed several times by an irascible Blue-throated Hummingbird last summer. And, one of my companions spied a White-earedtwice!
Hummers can be found across the continent, if you really look for them. These are just a few suggestions to help you find the joy of hummingbird watching outside your own backyard.
Happy New Year and Happy Hummingbirding!
Copyright © 1997
Nancy L. Newfield
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