Fall migrants do not bear the bright colorful feathers that they wore in spring when they were ready to attract mates and get on with nesting. Moreover, they are much more silent for the same reason. They are not looking for a mate; they are looking to safely get to their winter homes. They are entirely focused on that goal. The result is that, unless one is out specifically looking for the birds, thousands can easily pass through unnoticed in a matter of days.
Most of the fall migrants pass through relatively quickly. They don't tarry with us for long. Hummingbirds are something of an exception to this rule. They may stick around for days or even weeks while they fatten up to ready themselves for their long journey. The hummingbirds that come through here - primarily Ruby-throated, Black-chinned, and Rufous - may go as far south as Costa Rica and Panama, although many Rufous hummers do winter in the Gulf Coast states. For the past several years, I've had as many as three Rufous Hummingbirds wintering in my yard.
Here are some maps from Journey North which show where hummingbirds have been reported this week. (You can report your own sightings to their website.)
|This map shows reports of all species, sexes, and ages of hummers. You can see that there are still some circles far north, even well into Canada. These would primarily be females and immatures by this time of year.|
In the same way that tropical species are moving farther north, western species are being found more often in the eastern part of the continent. Again, historically, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird was the only one found in the East, and it still comprises the vast majority of the sightings east of the Rocky Mountains. But Anna's, Costa's, Calliope, Broad-tailed, Violet-crowned, and Buff-bellied are becoming more and more commonly reported in the eastern parts of the country.
|The gorget of a male Ruby-throated hummer glows as he comes in for a sip from one of my nectar feeders.|
|This is a female Ruby-throat who has spent the summer in my garden. She will probably be here at least a few more weeks before she moves on southward.|
|I haven't yet seen a Rufous Hummingbird in fall migration. This is one of the females that spent the winter with me in 2014-15. I usually start seeing the Rufous hummers coming through in late August, so any day now...|
|This is a subadult male Rufous that was here last winter.|
|Our Buff-bellied was visiting a feeder that had been set up at the visitors' center of one of the parks we visited.|
|Note his distinctive red bill. That is an unmistakable field mark for this bird, which is actually becoming quite common in South Texas. It hasn't made it as far north as my yard yet.|
UPDATE: Here's a link to an interesting story in Slate.com today about hummingbird aggression. They are very fierce little birds.