Incredible hummingbird connection: Florida to Alaska

Hummingbirds wintering in the southeastern United States were long written off as hopelessly lost and doomed, but banding studies have shown them to be far better oriented than we could have imagined.

A new record was set this week by a second-year female Rufous Hummingbird banded January 13, 2010 at a private home in Tallahassee, Florida by Fred Dietrich, a bander with the Hummer/Bird Study Group. The bird was recaptured on June 28 in Chenega Bay, Alaska by Kate McLaughlin, a subpermittee working under master hummingbird bander Stacy Jon Peterson of Wasilla, AK. Chenega Bay is a tiny community on Prince William Sound; its residents are predominantly Native Alaskans of the Chugach Alutiiq group. Kate and her husband Andy have been banding hummingbirds since 2008, and this is their first recapture of a bird wearing another researcher’s band.

According to Google Earth, the minimum distance between the two sites is approximately 3500 miles. The previous record was approximately 2200 miles, set by a Rufous banded in Lafayette, Louisiana by Dave Patton and found dead on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Congratulations to Fred and Kate on this incredible connection!