Frosty comes to town

Karen Reynolds
Contributing Writer

Yes, her name is Frosty and she’s not a snowman!

Frosty is a feisty, tiny female calliope hummingbird, weighing in at just 3.57 grams. This bird has never been seen in Indiana before. She has decided to make her home with Norma and Dave Jackson on O&M Street in North Vernon.

Normally, hummingbirds have flown south by November 15 each year, but, Frosty appears to be quite comfortable here in southeastern Indiana for an extended stay.

She has been stirring quite a bit of excitement among “birders” in the area. To date, she has had 115 visitors with that number growing every day. She actually has even had a visitor from as far away as Chicago!

According to Norma Jackson, Frosty has had a visit and a check-up from a bander, Tim Tolford from Liberty, Indiana. Tolford banded Frosty on December 27. He is one of only 100 banders in the United States and is state and federally licensed as a bander.

According to Norma, Tolford is really good at what he does. The Jacksons say they would “highly recommend him to anyone”. He caught Frosty in a small net, measured her wingspan and weighed her. Frosty did her part, too. She held incredibly still for this event, making not a peep until he was finished.

Tolford was able to definitely identify Frosty as a female hummingbird due to the white spots on her tail feathers. Norma said he worked “quickly and gently” with Frosty. The Jacksons were able to hold Frosty briefly and release her back to her world. Norma said she could feel Frosty’s heartbeat, which beat like “a little motor running”.

Norma said she and her husband are happy to share Frosty with others. Dan Gorney, president of the Amos W. Butler Audubon Society in Indianapolis, has been a frequent visitor to see Frosty. There is a fear that Frosty might freeze if the weather changes. According to Gorney, “She’ll know when to leave and will not freeze.”

Other visitors have come from the Muscatatuck Wildlife Refuge and Amy Wilms, president of the Indiana Audubon Society has made a visit. Ryan Sanderson, a photographer from Indianapolis, has taken many pictures of Frosty.

What makes Frosty’s stay in Indiana so remarkable is that she has been identified by Bob Sargent, member of the Hummer Bird Society from Clay, Alabama, as a calliope hummingbird. No one has ever seen a calliope in Indiana before. Up until this time, there have been five species of hummingbirds that have made their home in Indiana and Frosty now represents the sixth group.

According to bander Tim Tolford, the hummingbird species known as the calliope is the smallest breeding bird in North America with a life expectancy of 3-5 years. Frosty was probably born last summer. These birds typically weigh about the same as a penny. Calliope hummingbirds normally winter in Mexico and spend the summer months in the northwest United States and southwestern Canada. Frosty is a vagrant, meaning she has somehow gotten sidetracked during migration.

She was named Frosty by the Jacksons. The day they named it, she was sitting on the bird feeder and there was frost on the ground. They decided “Frosty” would be an appropriate name for the bird who is braving the cold weather to take up residence in Indiana.

The Jackson’s have come to think of Frosty as their pet, part of the family, who joined them to help celebrate the Christmas season. Norma said, “Frosty is God’s little gift to us, one of His precious creatures that we enjoy. We invite everyone to come visit Frosty and share the joy.” You might want to call the Jackson’s first at 812-346-7306 to see if Frosty is “about”.

Frosty usually hangs out in the Jackson’s backyard in the mornings. She even has a heated bird feeder that was provided by Dan Gorney.

Watching Frosty is a rare treat.

Pictured above, Frosty, the little hummingbird that has taken up residency in North Vernon, gets a drink from the feeder at the home of Norma and Dave Jackson on O&M Street.