109067aThe first-ever Sedona Hummingbird Festival will take place Friday through Sunday, Aug. 3-5, at the new Sedona Performing Arts Center. Sedona is home to the nonprofit Hummingbird Society, an international organization created in 1996. Its mission is to help people understand and appreciate hummingbirds and to help save endangered species through conservation efforts.

So what is a hummingbird festival? It is an opportunity for you to hear from experts who study the lives and biology of hummingbirds, not only here in North America, but also in Mexico, Central America and down into South America.

The festival features three full days of presentations on a variety of topics including biology of hummingbirds, hummingbird photography, gardening to attract hummingbirds and hummingbird conservation. It is important to know that most of the events (talks, workshops, field trips, etc.) require tickets, which are available online at the Hummingbird Society’s website www.hummingbirdsociety.org.

Some of the field activities that are planned include public hotspots for viewing hummingbirds in large quantities. On Saturday, there will be a hummingbird garden tour, and on another day, there will be a sunrise hummingbird breakfast. One event, which is free, is a public demonstration of hummingbird banding. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful experience to see these tiny jewels of flight up close?

Most folks are surprised to learn that hummingbirds are found only in the New World, with the largest variety of hummingbird species occurring in South America. There are over 330 different species of hummingbirds in the New World. You would think there would be hummingbirds in Africa, Australia or in Hawaii, but that is not the case.

Hummingbirds are uniquely adapted to live in very specific habitats. East of the Rockies there is generally only one hummingbird species-the ruby-throated hummingbird. In western North America, we have 15 species of hummingbirds, not counting examples of “accidental” species showing up. From time to time, there are sightings of extremely rare hummingbird species that stray into North America.

Arizona is the hummingbird capital of the United States, with more species of hummingbirds occurring here than in any other state in the nation. Our proximity to Mexico creates a unique situation where the habitat in southeastern Arizona’s “sky islands,” such as the Chiricahua, Huachuca and Santa Rita mountains, hosts large quantities and varieties of hummingbirds.

In the Sibley Guide to Birds there are 18 different hummingbird species shown in North America. Of the 18, I have seen 16. The two that I have not seen are the plain-capped starthroat (which is an irregular and rare visitor to southeastern Arizona) and the green violet-ear, which is a rare visitor in Texas.

While there will be a variety of presentations in the main auditorium, there will also be opportunities to get out into the field to observe hummingbirds in their natural habitat. If you plan on attending the festival, I would encourage you to bring your binoculars!

One of the nice things about hummingbirds is that they are incredibly tame and they don’t seem to mind if you are just a few feet away. One challenge when watching hummingbirds is finding a pair of binoculars that allows you to focus within four or five feet. Unfortunately a lot of folks have old binocular models that don’t allow close focus. Newer optics technology and design now makes this possible. If you need assistance with binoculars that have close focus capability, please come see us at either store location.