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Audubon Society looking for humming birds in the area

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:58 p.m.
Robert Mulvhill from Beechwood Farms watches a recent video of a hummingbird from a local bird watcher. Jan Pakler | for The Herald

One's not likely to see a red hummingbird zipping through the backyard at this time of year, but if that happens, the Audubon Society wants to hear about it.

The group, headquartered at Beechwood Farms in Fox Chapel, has begun a project to monitor hummingbird migration by banding birds and documenting their patterns.

“This project is important because most people don't realize that the birds stay in our region longer than just the summer,” said Rachel Handel, Beechwood spokesperson.

“By banding the birds, we can track their movements not just in western Pennsylvania, but also during migration. This helps to raise awareness and interest in the hummingbird's huge migration trek to the Gulf Coast.”

Even into December, residents were reporting hummingbirds visiting their backyard bird feeders, Handel said.

Since September, the Audubon Society has banded more than a half dozen birds, including a female Rufous in Franklin Park. Bob Mulvihill, an ornithologist working with the group and part of a network of licensed hummingbird banders throughout the east coast, recommends that residents keep their feeders filled even in the winter.

Mulvihill said keeping the food fresh is important. The mix is four parts water to one part sugar.

Hummingbirds tend to visit feeders in the early morning and late evening, he said.

“Hummingbirds are inherently intriguing due to their small size, color and speed,” Handel said.

It should be easy for people to identify them if the birds land in their backyards, she said.

By this time of year, most hummingbirds have completed their annual migration southward, Handel said. But there have been several occasions where they've shown up around Pittsburgh.

A hummingbird recently banded in Mt. Washington was spotted in the area's annual Christmas Bird Count.

“We also have one that was banded in Leetsdale that showed up in the Imperial Christmas Bird Count,” she said.

A hummingbird caught on Dec. 11 in New Wilmington, Lawrence County, was previously banded in Louisiana. Handel said it was released to continue its journey to the Gulf.

Residents who see hummingbirds are encouraged to call the Audubon Society to document it. Call Mulvihill at 412-963-6100, ext. 29, or email bmulvihill@aswp.org.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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