By Carolyn Graybeal
Hummingbirds are mesmerizing. Their iridescent feathers. How they hover in the air. But these tiny birds are not just eye candy. Hummingbirds play a critical role in the ecosystem. They help keep insect populations in check. They pollinate flowers as they roam for nectar.
Unfortunately scientists are observing that migration patterns are changing, a presumed result of global climate change. A study released last month reports the migration patterns of the ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris), the most common hummingbird in North America, has shifted by about two weeks earlier than usual. This is bad news for both the birds and ecosystem in general. These birds are arriving at their northern breeding grounds while food may be scarce.
Recognizing the critical nature of these birds, the National Audubon Society has launched Hummingbirds@Home. Starting March 15th, the Audubon Society invites you to help track and report hummingbirds you see using their free app. Learn more about Hummingbirds@Home and how to join here.
If you need a little help spotting these birds, Cornell University published this handy how-to guide for attracting hummingbirds to your property and learning more about hummingbird behavior such as nesting, feeding, and migration patterns.
Be sure to check SciStarter for more hummingbird-related projects and for opportunities to help other feathered friends. Until then, happy (humming)bird watching!