Species spotlight: four hummingbirds occasionally found in Michigan

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

When Michigan residents hang their hummingbird feeders, the most common species they see is ruby-throated hummingbird. The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only regularly occurring hummingbird in Michigan, but four other species have been spotted in the state: rufous, broad-billed, green violet-ear and white-eared hummingbirds.

Anna’s hummingbird. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Anna’s hummingbirds are among the most common hummingbirds along the Pacific coast—but with their emerald feather and rose-pink throats, they are anything but the most common in appearance. Anna’s hummingbirds make a strong impression with their courtship displays: males will climb 130 feet into the air, then swoop to the ground, using their tail feathers to make a burst of noise. Anna’s hummingbirds are accidental in Michigan, which means they have been recorded in the state fewer than three times in the past decade. Two Anna’s hummingbirds were recorded in Michigan in 2010.

Female rufous hummingbird. Photo by Brendan Lally. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The rufous hummingbird has been called the “feistiest hummingbird in North America.” Normally found in California, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains, these tiny birds are relentless at flowers and feeders and will often attack even large hummingbirds that may double them in weight. Male rufous hummingbirds have bright orange backs and bellies and a vivid red throat, while females are mostly green with a spot of orange on the throat. The rufous hummingbird is the most common hummingbird in Michigan aside from the ruby-throated hummingbird, and has been recorded 20 times in the past 10 years. In the last decade, rufous hummingbirds were recorded in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Green violet-ear. Photo by Joseph C. Boone. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Green violet-ear are casual in Michigan, meaning they have been recorded more than three times but fewer than 30 times in the past decade, and were recorded in fewer than nine of the last 10 years. Green violet-ears have a green throat, chest, belly and back, with a violet ear-patch on the side of their necks. They are typically found in southern Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, western Panama, northern Venezuela, western Venezuela and western Bolivia, but have been recorded in Michigan seven times. Green violet-ears have been spotted in Michigan in 1996, 2002, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

White-eared hummingbird. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

White-eared hummingbirds are green on their upperparts and breast and white on their undertail coverts. The most predominant feature on both males and females is the white eyestripe, which is more boldly colored for males. Males are more brightly-colored than females, with a turquoise-green throat and violet and black crown. The white-eared hummingbird is found from northern Mexico through New Mexico to Texas. It is accidental in Michigan and was recorded in 2005.

Broad-billed hummingbird. Photo by Dick Daniels. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Male broad-billed hummingbirds are strikingly colorful, with a green back, blue throat and green chest, and a long, red bill with a dark tip. Females have a dark ear-patch, gray underparts and a white line over the eye. The broad-billed hummingbird typically lives in southern Arizona and Mexico and has only been recorded in Michigan in 1996 and 2000.

Michigan residents will most likely see a ruby-throated hummingbird at their feeders this spring and summer, but if you spot another type of hummingbird, take a picture (if possible!) and submit a Rare Bird Report Form to the Michigan Audubon.

MNA has a series of videos of ruby-throated hummingbirds on our YouTube channel for a closer look at Michigan’s only regularly occurring hummingbird species. A DVD of those videos can be purchased on our website.

Hummingbirds, black bears, warmer lakes: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

MNA is starting a new weekly blog series! Each Friday, we are going to highlight news stories from the week to help you stay up-to-date on environmental news around the state and country.

Here are six articles you might’ve missed this week:

A female ruby-throated hummingbird. Photo by Cindy Mead.

A female ruby-throated hummingbird. Photo by Cindy Mead.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds arriving earlier (Michigan Radio): Ruby-throated hummingbirds are migrating north from Mexico earlier than ever. Last winter was one of the warmest in Michigan history, and hummingbirds arrived to the state as early as March 17—before a major cold stretch in April. Hummingbirds can survive in the cold for a day, but die quickly if the weather stays cold. The ruby-throated hummingbird population is stable for now, but Pamela Rasmussen, an associate zoology professor at Michigan State University, is concerned about what will happen if hummingbirds continue to migrate early.

From the Mouths of Babes (Conservation Magazine): Parents normally pass on knowledge to their children, but when it comes to the environment, it might be the other way around. Environmental education programs tend to be aimed at children because environmental attitudes are often formed at a young age, and a new study suggests that children can teach their parents about environmental issues and even influence their families to behave in “greener ways.”

Warming Lake Superior stresses wildlife, observers say (CBC News): Lake Superior broke its previous high-temperature records last year. This means bad news for the lake’s native trout, which thrives in cold water, as well as some of the lake’s other species. As water temperatures rise, sea lamprey are getting bigger, living longer, and having a negative impact on native fish. Increases in temperature don’t only harm fish—some land-based wildlife, like moose, are poorly suited to warmer climates. Wildlife Federation spokesperson Melinda Koslow said reducing greenhouse gases and protecting habitats will help prevent future harm to species.

Northern Michigan Outdoors: DNR Discusses the Latest on Black Bears (MyNorth): In February, Northern Michigan’s black bears are hibernating in their dens—except for new moms of the Ursus americanus variety. These bears are busy giving birth, nursing their young, and keeping the cubs and den clean. DNR wildlife biologist Mark Boersen has been checking up on bear families for more than 10 years and shared what he’s learned about the species.

West Michigan women come together to educate and inspire women to take action to protect our environment and natural resources (mlive): On February 15, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council met in Grand Rapids to honor women environmentalists at the second Women and the Environment Symposium. The symposium honored women who are inspiring others, protecting the environment and leading change.

Scientists seeks solutions to Lake Erie algae (mlive): Toxic algae blooms may form more often in Lake Erie unless farms and cities do a better job of controlling phosphorous runoff, scientists say. A team of 40 scientists met in Windsor, Ontario, this week to compare research findings about Lake Erie’s algae blooms and work on a report for government policymakers. The team is putting together a series of papers that study where the phosphorous comes from, which management practices best cut down on runoff, and how climate change affects algae blooms. A draft will be released for public comment in May.