Early Arrival Dates

One of the most exciting events of the spring, especially after a long winter filled with anticipatory thoughts of being a participant in Operation RubyThroat, is the arrival of the year's first Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris. Although winter hangs on in parts of the ruby-throat's breeding range and the school Hummingbird Garden may scarcely be visible beneath a blanket of snow in late March, it is then that the earliest RTHUs may be expected to arrive. A well-placed hummingbird feeder may be the best way to spot an early arrival.

Adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds begin arriving on their breeding grounds as early as mid-March, with the first females arriving about a week to 10 days later. By watching the feeder or Hummingbird Garden on a daily basis, students (or other observers) can determine the date of the first hummingbird appearance of the year. This date can be reported to Operation RubyThroat via PROJECTS so it can be compared with "early dates" from across the continental U.S., and with "early dates" for the same location in successive years.

Since RTHU males and females have distinctly different appearances and are the only age and sex classes present until the first chicks fledge in mid-June (or earlier in the Deep South), it is possible to determine TWO early dates--one for each sex.

NOTE: On the other end of the migratory pathway, observers in Mexico and Central America can be on the lookout for the departure--not arrival--of the last RTHU of the spring season.

NOTE: Please send descriptions and results (including photos) from your successful basic observations
Operation RubyThroat via PROJECTS.

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Operation RubyThroat is a registered trademark of Bill Hilton Jr. and Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York, South Carolina USA, phone (803) 684-5852. Contents of the overall project and this website--including photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of the author. To obtain permission or for further assistance on accessing this website, contact Webmaster.