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Small birds in Isles year-round
Marge Inness likes living in Coastal Georgia, in part because hummingbirds live here year round.

"I just think they are amazing birds because they are so small and they fly across the Gulf of Mexico," Inness said.

As the president of the Coastal Georgia Audubon Society, Inness enjoys keeping a watchful eye out for the tiny, energetic birds.

During the summer months, catching a glimpse of hummingbirds is fairly easy as flowers are blooming and feeders are full.

Once winter sets in, though, Glynn County's primary resident, the ruby-throated hummingbird, leaves for warmer climates and many residents take down their feeders, an action Inness says is unnecessary.

"We do get a lot them between here and Savannah in the colder months," Inness said.

That is why the Nongame Conservation Section of the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is asking residents across the state to make sure their hummingbird feeders are clean and full throughout winter.

Tim Keyes, a wildlife biologist with the Nongame Conservation Section in Brunswick, said most hummingbirds make their way to places like Mexico for the winter, but some wind up in Georgia.

"Through an accident of navigation, some wind up in the Southeast," Keyes said.

Although their numbers are smaller, between eight and 10 species of western hummingbirds can be seen in the Peach State during the cold season, Keyes said.

The most common has been the Rufous hummingbird, which normally lives in the Pacific northwest and winters in Mexico. However, a few take a different path and are spotted throughout Georgia and the rest of the Southeast during winter.

Keyes said the tiny birds migrate based on the length of day as opposed to a shortage of food, so leaving a feeder out will not affect their travels. Leaving a feeder out will help them by providing a food source in the absence of blooming flowers.

With such tiny bodies and active lifestyles, hummingbirds require energy rich nectar with plenty of sugar to keep them moving.

"They're flying 500 miles and they weigh less than a nickel," Keyes said. "It is pretty unbelievable."

Although most of the wintering hummingbirds find their way to the metro Atlanta area because of the large number of feeders there, a rare buff-bellied hummingbird was actually spotted in Glynn County in 2011.

Identifying hummingbirds can be difficult, but Georgians can contact Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section in Forsyth about hummer sightings at (478) 994-1438. These reports document the incidence of wintering hummers and help biologists determine their habitat needs.

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