Master Naturalists: What's a "Hummingbird Roundup"?
By Paul and Mary Meredith
Sept. 5, 2013 at 4:05 a.m.
Only a few people who we know who are interested in hummingbirds saw more than two or three kinds this past year. A large percentage of interested people saw none over the summer. Another dry year was the verdict.
Surprisingly, participants in the Texas Hummingbird Roundup found that the weather didn't seem to discourage hummingbird diversity. Sixteen of the 18 species that have been recorded in the state were observed in 2012.
Only Beryllines and Green-breasted Mangos were not spotted. Plus, there were several unusual events. Two birds were seen at times when they aren't usually observed.
One Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist says, "Occurrences like those create excitement and interest in these brilliantly colored aerobatic wonders."
The department supports preserving native animals and plants that form their habitats. They work to keep rare species from becoming extinct and to keep common species from becoming rare - conservation for the future. Information about species and their habitats is a vital part of that conservation effort.
Hummingbird Roundup participants assist the department's Wildlife Diversity Program by collecting and reporting invaluable information about habitat at their location and about hummingbirds they see. The department uses the data to monitor populations and track the distribution of species, common and rare.
Hummingbird roundup participants provide the department information describing the degree to which conditions where their data is being gathered supports hummers.
The department asks, for example, about nectar plants in the yard; how long hummers have been fed there; location (urban vs. rural, proximity to water); general landscaping such as yard size, tree cover and availability of shelter plants in winter and other habitat questions.
Observations can help TPWD detect when population changes occur. For example, one of Mary's favorite hummer species is now known to have expanded its range eastward within the last 15 years from New Mexico and Arizona.
We spotted one of those birds in our yard about six years ago and managed to take its picture. A bird expert told us it could not be a bird from "Mary's species" this far eastward.
But several years later, the species moved eastward had been documented partly through amateur birders' sightings. While the 2012 roundup was relatively calm compared to 2011, observations were "just as diverse."
In one instance, a buff-bellied hummingbird, an eastern hummer usually associated with more tropical settings, was seen in the Christmas Mountains in southern Brewster County. Conditions there are anything but tropical.
Reporting yearly or weekly?
Roundup participants spend about two hours a week at convenient times, like breakfast, coffee or dinner, observing and recording the highest number of each species and gender observed.
Participants also record their "best estimate" of the number of individual birds feeding. Observations are recorded on paper forms covering an entire year (52 weeks), or weekly reports can be emailed to the Roundup.
The Roundup needs more participants now. No one is reporting birds in Victoria, Goliad, Lavaca, Jackson, Refugio or Wharton counties; and only one person reports in DeWitt. Mary and Paul are signing up.
Reporting can be family fun. You do not have to be an expert, just willing to follow guidelines and use the ID material the Roundup provides. Get involved. And, by the way, it's OK to go on vacation.
Go to the TPWD http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/texas_nature_trackers/hummingbird_roundup/survey/ to get your backyard survey form and information. Complete it and send it in. You can get started reporting now. Mark Klym, Roundup honcho, assures us that the data will be valuable to TPWD diversity biologists.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department diversity program at tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/texas_nature_trackers/hummingbird_roundup/ Texas Hummingbird Roundup The Texas Hummer, A Newsletter for Texas Hummingbird Roundup Participants The Texas Hummingbird Roundup Backyard Survey Texas Hummingbird Roundup: Observations 2009-11 Rockport HummerBird Celebration
Hummingbirds of Texas, C. E. Shackelford, M. M. Lindsay, C. M. Klym. 2009 (With Their New Mexico and AriZonz Ranges) (sightings updated) Hummingbirds of North America, Williamson, S.L.
Paul and Mary Meredith are master naturalists. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.