Rufous Hummingbird overwintering in Ozark, Mo.
GREENE CO., MO. — An adult male Rufous Hummingbird is spending the winter at a feeder in Ozark, Missouri, which is not very far from where I’m spending the holidays. Sunday afternoon, I and my friends Charley Burwick, Lisa Berger, Greg Swick, and Nate of The Drinking Bird converged to observe him.
The kind family hosting the little bird is working hard to keep him fed, especially as temperatures hover in the 20s during the day and drop into the teens at night. Brrr!
Though the bulk of the population winters in Mexico, Rufous Hummingbirds are rare migrants and low-density winter residents throughout the southeastern United States. They can survive cold weather — but only if they have enough food. Feeders probably provide a lifeline for hummers that turn up in places like Missouri, where ice, snow, and very cold temperatures would likely prevent them from finding enough natural food to survive. However, the dynamics of this phenomenon, which seems to be increasing not only with Rufous Hummingbirds but with other western hummers as well, is still not well understood.
Update: According to the Missouri checklist, Rufous Hummingbird is a regular but scarce fall transient but is only an accidental (fewer than five records) winter resident. So we’ll be submitting documentation to the Missouri Bird Records Committee. Rufous Hummingbird regularly overwinters in states like Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, but doesn’t usually stay this far north.
Update: See Nate’s post too: A Christmas Hummingbird.