The spring migration is underway, and the first of the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are beginning to move through the valley on their northward migration. Richard Moore shares the story of their remarkable journey.
Imagine for a moment, the remarkable odyssey of the ruby-throated hummingbird. This thumb-sized bird, weighing only 1/10th of an ounce, almost the exact weight of a penny, launches itself at dusk with a tailwind from the coastal jungle of the Yucatán. Flying in solitude for some twenty hours thru the night straight across the vast Gulf of Mexico, with wings fluttering at some 25 beats per second, the tiny hummer desperately scans the horizon for landfall.
It is a perilous journey at best, but if the exhausted bird encounters a late season norther while winging it across the 500-mile swath of Gulf, the tiny traveler may never complete the crossing. Finally, in a state of near total collapse, the hummer spots land and practically falls out of the sky onto the shore of South Padre Island.
The ruby throated hummingbird has just completed the marathon first leg of its journey and has lost approximately a third of its body weight. As it rests on a twig, the bird catches its breath before continuing its northward migration which may eventually take it more than 2,000 miles to breeding grounds in the northern United States and Canada.
Joining the ruby-throated hummingbirds on this remarkable spring migration is a colorful variety of songbirds from indigo buntings to vibrant Baltimore orioles.
Desperately seeking food, shelter and water among the few remaining wooded lots on South Padre Island, these famished migrants scour the area for any available sustenance.
A chestnut sided warbler is lucky enough to snatch a plump worm while this scarlet tanager feeds hungrily on a juicy orange.
Many birds to not survive the dangerous passage, and disappear into the Gulf, but for those that manage to make landfall, those first few hours on South Padre’s remnant woody lots are crucial.