Nothing heralds in spring, like the arrival of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds here in eastern North America!
These tiny birds are only about 3-1/4 inches. Their backs are iridescent green and only the males sport the ruby throat for which they are named. Like most bird species, the female’s coloring is dull in comparison to the male’s, yet still beautiful. Doesn’t this seem completely opposite of female humans? Could you imagine dressing in your dullest colors to go out on a date? But I digress…
Hummingbirds are precision flyers. They are the only birds that can fly backwards and hover in one place. Their wings beat 52 times per second on average. They flap so quickly that they are nearly imperceptible. In our yard, we have experienced these little birds as being both brave and shy. If we sit still, they will often come right up to us. They have a little dance; hover, dart left, hover, dart right, hover. They seem to be deciding if we are a threat, or better yet, food. But, with any sudden movement, they are gone in a jeweled-toned flash! I’ve learned to track them with my eyes to see where they alight after their hasty departure. Here is one little lady who is preening her feathers in a tall maple tree.
Though hummingbirds do eat some tiny insects, their main food source is nectar.
Did you know that in early spring, they often eat the sap from sapsucker drill holes?
Aside from this opportunistic endeavor, they rely almost exclusively on the nectar of flowers and feeders like the ones shown here. Tubular and pendant-like flowers such as the ones found on honeysuckle, fuchsia & salvia are perfectly suited to their long beaks & tongues.
Highly attracted to flowers in the red, pink & orange color families, they are also known to enjoy the nectar of flowers in other colors, even white. For a list of native plants in our area that attract hummingbirds, I recommend looking at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping.” It is colorful and easy to use.
You can attract hummingbirds to any variety of outdoor spaces. Even if your backyard is actually a small balcony, you can hang a feeder and provide potted plants that attract hummingbirds for your enjoyment.
The feeder shown here is one of the best because it is easy to clean. You can even throw it in the dishwasher. There are no narrow openings or tight corners to contend with as opposed to a bottle-type feeder. To keep ants at bay, fill the inner well with some water and/or add an ant guard which attaches above the feeder (this one is red and fits under the cover). Bee guards slip on the inside of the holes (under the lid) to keep insects away from the nectar. Bees and wasps will compete with the hummingbirds for food at the feeder.
Nectar Recipe: Dissolve 1/4 cup sugar in 1 cup warm water. Let cool completely. Store extra nectar in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Be sure to clean and refill your feeder every three days. More often in hot, humid weather which will cause it to go bad more quickly. You will know because it begins to turn cloudy and may begin to develop some mold inside the feeder.
To track the migration of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, go to http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html. You and your family can even participate by reporting your first siting right on their website. It is a lot of fun to watch the map fill with the dates of the first sitings of the year.
Here is a cute video of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds enjoying a Dinner & Dance in our wildlife habitat: