An ‘incredible’ feat: Hummingbirds fly nonstop over Gulf


Years ago, a respected ornithologist told me what I thought was a preposterous tale: Untold numbers of migrating ruby-throated hummingbirds, he said, fly nonstop 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico each spring and fall to reach their destinations.

In the spring, he said, the tiny birds fly from their winter homes in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and in Central America to summer nesting grounds in North America. In the fall, they make the reverse trek back across the Gulf.

I was incredulous. It was mind-blowing to think that a tiny bird weighing no more than a nickel could fly 18 hours straight across the Gulf of Mexico without ever resting or refueling.

I wasn’t the only skeptic. Many ornithologists at the time believed that hummingbirds burned so much fuel flapping their wings that they simply could not survive a nonstop trip across the Gulf. The birds were thought to fly over land across Mexico, making refueling stops along the way.

An alternative theory was that the little birds flew across the Gulf on the backs of ducks and geese, but most ornithologists dismissed that notion as ridiculous.

Today, from radar studies and other research, we know the truth: Untold numbers of ruby-throated hummingbirds do indeed fly nonstop more than 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico during their spring and fall migrations. Giff Beaton, one of Georgia’s top birders, says the feat sounds as astounding to him today as when he first heard about it years ago.

The hummingbirds already are arriving in Georgia for their nesting season. Jaynne Reichart in Bryan County in South Georgia said two male hummers showed up in her yard this week. “My husband made new hummingbird (nectar) and put our five feeders out,” she said.

Ruby-throats, of course, are not the only birds that make incredible nonstop journeys across the Gulf. Millions of migrating songbirds do so as well. They, too, will begin arriving for their nesting seasons within the next few weeks.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be first-quarter today. Venus and Mercury are low in the west at dusk. Jupiter rises out of the east just before midnight. Mars and Saturn rise out of the east about an hour after midnight.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

TV/radio briefs: Jim Sciutto, Lisa Hagen, Tommie Lee, Elle Duncan, Wendy Williams, SB Nation Falcons podcast
TV/radio briefs: Jim Sciutto, Lisa Hagen, Tommie Lee, Elle Duncan, Wendy Williams, SB Nation Falcons podcast

With Chris Cuomo moved to prime time, there has been a shift in CNN’s morning shows. Josh Berman has already been placed in “New Day” and Joe Sciutto gets Berman’s former anchor spot on “CNN Newsroom” from 9 to 11 a.m. Sciutto, CNN’s chief security correspondent, will retain that reporting role. He began...
White balls on potted plants are fertilizer
White balls on potted plants are fertilizer

Q: I had three potted parsley plants that suddenly wilted and died. There are white balls next to the stems. They pop when pressed and a sticky liquid comes out. Catherine Caubet, Newnan A: Since no yellow, red, or pink bug guts came out when you pressed the balls, I think these are spheres of controlled-release fertilizer. Manufacturers...
5 ways to enhance your home’s curb appeal
5 ways to enhance your home’s curb appeal

Everyone wants the prettiest home on the block, which is why curb appeal never gets old. It’s that bump of pride you feel every time you pull into the driveway or stroll up the front walk. Curb appeal also adds value to your home, since it will bring in buyers when the time comes to sell. And a lot of projects are DIY-friendly, meaning homeowners...
How to protect yourself against common home improvement scams
How to protect yourself against common home improvement scams

Home improvement, repair and renovation projects represent significant investments. And with that kind of money at stake and decisions often made under pressure, home repairs make an inviting target for scam artists who plan to take the money and run. Protect yourself from fraud by looking out for these common schemes: “Hey, I was doing a job...
Choose natural fixture colors to match your environment
Choose natural fixture colors to match your environment

Q: Dear Ed, my husband and I are lucky to retire in a small house in a seaside community. We plan to remodel the kitchen and wanted to ask about kitchen decorating choices to blend in with our surroundings. Can you please give us some ocean-inspired kitchen ideas? — Dottie, Rhode Island A: It’s a good practice to include a little of your...
More Stories