Friday, September 21, 2007

Mango Madness

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

No doubt by you've all heard the exciting news of the Green-breasted Mango hummingbird visiting a feeder in Beloit, WI. Normally this bird is found in eastern Mexico and South America in Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia, etc. The most likely explanation how this tropical hummingbird got so far out of its normal range to Wisconsin is an error in its migratory behavior – a veritable vagrant. A caged escapee or released bird can't be ruled out, but very improbable.

The birding paparazzi have already descended upon Beloit and there are dozens upon dozens of photographs of the hummingbird appearing on listservs and websites. Some articles I've read are predicting that hundreds, if not thousands, of birders will visit the home hosting the bird (provided it sticks around). It probably will, as it's been there for nearly a month and temperatures are likely to be agreeable to the bird in the near term.

The mango would be a life bird for me, but I'm not going. Waunakee is approximately 65 miles from Beloit, so it would be a two-hour roundtrip and cost about $10.00 in gasoline. If I did go, though, I can picture myself standing on the patio of a typical midwestern backyard, or perhaps seated on a lawn chair graciously provided by the host, waiting several minutes in anticipation of seeing the mango. There would be the usual birder banter with familiar faces, perhaps meeting a few new people from out of state. Then all of a sudden, the Green-breasted Mango would zoom in and hover right next to the nectar feeder. Birders gasp and a few announce in unison, "There it is!" I would hold up my binoculars and admire it – seeing a species that's new to me - a mere 30-second experience punctuated by hours of navigating interstate traffic and spotting various roadkill along the side of the highway.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in my backyard are looking better and better all the time. Tell you what...I'm going to count the Green-breasted Mango anyway. There's no doubt in my mind I could drive to Beloit and see it. To officially earn the tick, I'm required to get in my car, fill my gas tank and spend a few hours on a highway and throw another 100 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. Well heck, anybody can do that. I'll take my $10.00 and give it to the Friends of Pheasant Branch for the prairie restoration effort. The Green-breasted Mango will be added to my "could have seen, but travel dollars went to conservation instead" list, which is steadily growing.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird © 2007 Mike McDowell

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