‘A nice sign of spring’
First hummingbirds of the season spotted in Will County
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.
A hummingbird fuels up on nectar in Will County in 2015. The first hummingbirds of the season have been spotted.