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The ruby-throated hummer migration begins in late July and lasts until mid-October. The males, with their glimmering red throats, migrate first, followed by the plain-throated females and juveniles in mid- to late August. By mid-September, they congregate in massive numbers at hummingbird feeders and nectar-producing plants to build up body fat to fuel the arduous trip across or around the Gulf of Mexico.

Black-chinned hummingbirds that breed in substantial numbers throughout the Hill Country and west to El Paso begin migrating in September, although many remain until the beginning of November. Texas populations, along with populations from the Rocky Mountains and desert Southwest, migrate to western Mexico for the winter, with some birds heading to the Texas Coast for the winter.

It's not unusual to see the two similar black-chinned and ruby-throated hummers in the same territory in the Hill Country during migration. Telling the two birds apart can be taxing, because the throat color is deceiving since it's produced by light refraction rather than pigmentation. So the red on a ruby-throated hummer can look as black as the throat on a black-chinned hummer in various light conditions.

To distinguish the two, look at the shape of the wings on perched birds. Black-chins have broad, rounded wings; ruby-throats have narrow, pointed wings.

Also, black-chins tend to pump their tails vigorously while hovering, and ruby-throats hold their tails rather steady.

If you get out to the Big Bend and Fort Davis areas in mid- to late August, you'll be treated to the migration of Western hummers such as the pugnacious copper-hued rufous hummingbirds that fend off other hummers from feeders and nectar plants. They migrate from the Pacific Northwest to the Pacific slope of southern and central Mexico with quite a few spending winters on the Texas coast.

To contact Lone Star College Vice President Gary Clark or photographer Kathy Adams Clark, visit their website at