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See a hummingbird in winter? Let a biologist know

A hummingbird visited a feeding station Monday near Maysville, Ky.
A hummingbird visited a feeding station Monday near Maysville, Ky.

Most hummingbirds head south when it gets cold in Kentucky, but sometimes one or two will stick around.

Biologists are trying to track hummingbirds that spend this winter here.

Ruby-throated hummers that come to Kentucky in spring and raise their young here probably have headed south already. But you might spot a rufous hummingbird, which usually breeds from Northern California to Alaska. Male rufouses are bright reddish-brown. Females and immature birds look more like female ruby-throateds.

Brainard Palmer-Ball and Mark Monroe, the biologists, are interested in reports of rufouses or any other hummingbirds in Kentucky during the winter. They are volunteers with the Hummer/Bird Study Group, a non-profit organization that researches hummingbirds and other songbirds in the southeastern United States.

Since 2005, they have found at least a dozen rufouses in Kentucky.

In the winter of 2006-07, a female rufous stayed in Louisville, Palmer-Ball said. In 2003-04, one stayed in Lexington.

By the way, Palmer-Ball says it's OK to leave hummingbird feeders up through late fall. The ruby-throateds are programmed to leave at a certain time of year, and the feeders don't keep the birds around. In fact, the only hummingbirds to linger are likely to be rare species from other regions of the country or ruby-throateds that are not in the best of health. The feeders might help them gain enough strength in late fall to migrate after they have recovered.