‘A nice sign of spring’

First hum­ming­birds of the sea­son spot­ted in Will County

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAN­D - By Rob Earn­shaw Rob Earn­shaw is a free­lance re­porter for the Daily South­town.

Af­ter a long trek up the Gulf Coast from Cen­tral Amer­ica and Mex­ico, the sea­son’s first hum­ming­birds have ar­rived in the area.

The ar­rival of the tiny birds has been con­firmed in Will County. The first re­ported sight­ing, ac­cord­ing to a map from Jour­ney North — a project run by the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son Ar­bore­tum — came April 15 from a cit­i­zen sci­en­tist in Joliet, where a hum­ming­bird was spot­ted at a nec­tar feeder.

Bob Bry­er­ton, an in­ter­pre­tive nat­u­ral­ist for the For­est Pre­serve Dis­trict of Will County, said the re­port is sig­nif­i­cant, not as much from a sci­en­tific stand­point, but from the per­spec­tive of hap­pi­ness.

Hum­ming­birds, he said, have a spe­cial place in peo­ple’s hearts.

“It is a nice sign of spring,” he said. “And they are just fun to have in your yard and fun to have at your feed­ers. It is a cool thing to see.”

As of Wed­nes­day Bry­er­ton had yet to spot a hum­ming­bird, but he said nor­mally at Plum Creek Na­ture Cen­ter south of Crete they put up feed­ers be­tween the sec­ond and fourth week of April.

“We get some early arrivals this time of year so you see a few of them here and there” he said. “Then they trickle in lit­tle by lit­tle at the end of April to the first part of May.

“It is done in strat­egy. If they trav­eled all in a big group, it is easy for preda­tors to see them. Also a big storm could wipe them out.”

Bry­er­ton said hum­ming­birds have to feed con­stantly be­cause they burn up a lot of energy and have to do a lot of stop­ping at flow­ers and feed­ers along the way. They fol­low the sea­son’s first flow­ers along the way, and also eat in­sects.

Bry­er­ton said it is a “bizarre” thing that hum­ming­birds have to cross the Gulf of Mex­ico con­sid­er­ing how small they are and how much energy they use.

“They have to fuel up big time be­fore they go and fuel up again when they land,” he said.

Those that are show­ing up here here now may be heading up to Wis­con­sin, Min­nesota or Canada.

“Then we get ours that may stay a lit­tle later,” Bry­er­ton said.

The hum­ming­birds will stick around un­til mid-Septem­ber be­fore heading back down south.

Bry­er­ton said they leave feed­ers up un­til Hal­loween — on ad­vice from a hum­ming­bird ban­der — in case of strag­glers. Some species go all the way to Alaska and may show up at a feeder as late as Novem­ber.

The busiest time for hum­ming­birds at the Plum Creek feed­ers are July and Au­gust.

“Once birds start ar­riv­ing we have a re­ally nice feeder area,” Bry­er­ton said.

Bry­er­ton said dur­ing their hum­ming bird cel­e­bra­tion in Au­gust they place bands on some of the birds as a way to track and re­search them.

“They have a hard life,” he said. “They mi­grate a long way and a lot of those first year birds just do not make it.”

Michael Kon­rath, di­rec­tor of the Sa­gawau En­vi­ron­men­tal Learn­ing Cen­ter in Le­mont, part of the Cook County For­est Pre­serves, said they put out a few feed­ers last week for the early arrivals.

“Sap suck­ers are here, so hum­mers fol­low them,” he said. “If your feeder is up and a bird sees it, it will make them happy.”

Kon­rath said as the pop­u­la­tion builds through the year both from mi­gra­tion and nestlings fledg­ling leav­ing the nest, they put out more and more feed­ers.

“So it is time to start putting out the hum­mer feed­ers,” he said. “Make sure you main­tain them with clean­ing and chang­ing nec­tar reg­u­larly based on weather.”

He said while there are some in the area, they are few and far be­tween as of yet.

“But as the days go on they will be­come more and more abun­dant,” he said.

SUZY LYTTLE

A hum­ming­bird fu­els up on nec­tar in Will County in 2015. The first hum­ming­birds of the sea­son have been spot­ted.

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