Hummingbird native to southwestern United States and western Mexico found in Saskatchewan
1st known Costa’s hummingbird in the province
A hummingbird rescued in Saskatchewan is a long way from home.
The tiny bird was found in a Saskatoon backyard in mid-October. Hummingbirds typically breed in the province from May until late summer, then migrate south for the winter.
The owners of the backyard called Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, a charity that helps injured and orphaned animals mend until they can return to the wild, to get the bird into care.
Once in care, bird banders began identifying the 2.8-gram animal. The identification of it as a Costa's hummingbird shocked everyone in the room, including long-time hummingbird bander Ron Jensen.
"This is what birders call a lifer, it's a life species. It's something I have never seen before," Jensen said.
"To find a bird I've never seen before in your home province that you've lived in for many years is quite enjoyable."
Costa's hummingbirds are native to the southwest United States and western Mexico.
Jensen said the species has been spotted in Alberta and British Columbia, but never in Saskatchewan.
The banders identified the bird as a young male based on its feathers. The hummingbird showed no signs of injury.
Jan Shadick, executive director of Living Sky, says most rare birds found in the province are younger.
"It has a purple throat gorget, but not super purple, so its adult feathers are just coming in, '' Shadick told Stefani Langenegger, host of The Morning Edition.
"It is the young ones that wander off to go find their territory and sometimes they just overstep and they go a little too far."
Living Sky will hold on to the bird throughout the winter, unless it is able to get permits to export the hummingbird back down to the natural habitat.
"I'm sure he would be happier in his own habitat, but if that's not possible then we'll obviously hang on to him," Shadick said.
Questions remain on how the Costa's hummingbird got to Saskatchewan in the first place.
"We don't really have a clue, but if it sheds a feather and we can convince a researcher to do an isotope analysis, we might be able to find out where it came from," Shadick said.
"In the meantime our goal at Living Sky Wildlife Rehab is to take care of the bird."
Jensen said thinking about the bird's journey takes him back to a lesson he learned from a retired Canadian Wildlife Service biologist.
"Birds have wings, they have been known to use them, so don't be surprised when they show up in the most unexpected places."
With files from The Morning Edition