Track hummingbird migration changes starting March 15.

By Carolyn Graybeal

Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Ruby Throated Hummingbird

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!

Categories: Citizen Science

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About the Author

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier is a Professor at Arizona State University's Center for Engagement and Training, part of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter. She is also the founder of Science Cheerleader, an organization of more than 300 current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers, and a cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a network of universities, science centers, and think tanks that produces public deliberations to enhance science policymaking. She is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, a senior advisor at Discover Magazine, a member of the EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, and was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences "Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning" committee. She is the author of The Science of Cheerleading and co-editor of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, published by Arizona State University. Darlene holds degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and was a high school, college and NBA cheerleader. Darlene lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children.