Another Update! On February 26th, Bruce Yolton of UrbanHawks.blogs.com captured some wonderful new video of the Rufous Humingbird. See it here.
Update! On February 10th, Ben Cacace reported on birdingonthe.net that he saw the Rufous hummingbird at the museum.
Click on image to expand.
I was at the museum on Wednesday, 1/25/12, and she was still there, feeding on the same flowers and looking good.
She made it through some patches of rough January weather--the snow, the downpour, and the high winds. Okay, lesson I'm learning is that a tiny bird from the West can deal with NYC winter, given that she has access to food.
This past fall, birders of New York City discovered a rare visitor to our part of the world: a female Rufous Hummingbird. What happened to make this tiny 3 gram bird deviate from the normal fall migratory patterns of her species, which should have brought her from the summer grounds of Alaska, Canada, Washington or Oregon down the West Coast as far south as Mexico? This will remain her secret adventure. Meanwhile, all of us who are getting to know her are rooting that she survives her winter adventure in New York City.
Click on picture for large view.
So far the weather has been on her side. She's been spared the kind of heavy snow storms we had last year which would cover up her food sources of nectar and insects. She has found a healthy and large shrub called Mahonia japonica that just happens to be an evergreen shrub that flowers in the winter and whose fragrant flowers make nectar! This should help her keep up with her voracious appetite. Hummingbirds eat 2-3 times their weight in nectar and insects every day. It takes a lot of energy to hover like a hummingbird!
At night this presents a problem because it is unable to gather food to feed its high metabolism. But there is a solution: Hummingbirds have evolved a biological mechanism called torpor, during which the body almost shuts down completely. In fact if you came across a hummingbird in torpor, you would mistake it for dead. Click here for a great article that describes torpor in more detail, and why torpor helps hummingbirds survive during cold nights as well as periods of time when there is not enough food.
I'd like to thank Rena Schilsky for a wonderful conversation while we were bird watching, and for her donation to NYC Nature. We both hope our friend from the West does well on her own, and will use the bird feeder provided to her at AMNH if and when nectar from the Mahonia flowers runs out. I will provide updates on this adventurous lady from the West as the winter progresses, so please come back again!
Update: If you're watching the video, take a look at around the 00:56 mark for a quick flash of red on the bird's throat, which identifies it as the female of the species. Also, If you pay careful attention to it as it is perching in the 2nd half of the video, you'll see it stick out its long tongue. Hummingbird tongues are bifurcated and covered with hair-like fibers that trap the nectar within the tongue. For amazing close up videos of hummingbird tongues while slurping nectar, see this website: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-05-hummingbird-tongue-video.html Update: City Room Blog of the NYTimes reported that this morning, Thursday, 1/5/12, our visitor is doing well and still feeding on the Mahonia!
Update: As of January 10, the rufus hummingbird was still feeding at the Museum of Natural History and also across the street in Central Park. Please visit Phil Jeffreys website for more details, http://www.philjeffrey.net/Hummingbirds.html#AMNH11 as well as DNAinfo: http://www.dnainfo.com/20120111/upper-west-side/uws-plucky-hummingbird-is-tougher-than-she-looks-experts-say