Pennsylvania birders are lucky to have some local ornithologists who have undertaken a mark-recapture study of the vagrant hummingbirds that pass through the Commonwealth each fall. Over the last several years, the project has grown as more people learn that they too have a chance to attract a vagrant hummingbird by maintaining their feeders and cultivating Salvia flowers. As more people learn about the phenomenon of these vagrants, the researchers benefit with more folks spotting and reporting these extremely rare birds. Most of the lucky hummer hosts will then contact the ornithologists to come capture and band “their” birds. Additionally, most of the host households will also generously welcome birders to visit as well. (Often with explicit guidance on what days/times are okay to visit, where to park, and—importantly–how to not draw the ire of their neighbors.)
This past Sunday, I was lucky enough to visit the vagrant ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD that showed up only a mile from the house where I grew up in York, PA. Scott Weidensaul attempted to capture and band this bird last week, however she evaded him, by continuing to show zero interest in the hummingbird feeders. Instead, this bird has been feeding at the various Salvia flowers & hawking insects. Recent research by others has shown that tiny flying insects make up a great percentage of hummingbirds’ diets, but if you spend some time watching the birds away from the feeders/flowers, you will see this yourself. In Pennsylvania, the vagrant hummingbird project has shown that some of the hummingbirds return to the same houses in Pennsylvania in subsequent years! Surprisingly, some of these off-course birds still have opportunities to pass on their genes and their bad sense of direction isn’t necessarily a death sentence.
This Anna’s Hummingbird is only the second record for Pennsylvania. The first was six years ago, near Shartlesville in Berks County.
If you’re curious, I captured the footage with an iPhone 7, Phone Skope adapter, and a Kowa 883 Prominar spotting scope with 25-60x wide-angle zoom eyepiece. I also used a second camera, a Panasonic Lumix GH4, with 100-300mm f.4-5.6 lens.
Learn more about Anna’s Hummingbirds on Cornell Lab’s All About Birds.