I love these hovering, pollinating, entertaining, little wonder birds.
The reason their activity has really picked up, is that they are stocking up on reserves, getting ready for migration. Our ruby-throats will be taking off soon to winter way down in Mexico & Central America. To get there, they have to make an incredible journey across the Gulf of Mexico, a 500+ mile non-stop flight over water. That requires more caloric energy than their tiny body weight of an eighth of an ounce. So they fatten up - they can up to double their body mass to prepare for the big flight. Doubled up or not, it's quite a miraculous feat.
For a while during summer females aren't seen much at feeders, once their tiny pea-sized eggs hatch. They feed their young insects for protein (moms do all the raising solo) because nectar doesn't provide protein for growing baby birds.
But now that those babies are out of the nest & flying - things are busy!
It's the males that are missing these days. I haven't seen any adult males (the ones with the brilliant ruby throats) at the feeder in the past couple of weeks. There's a good chance they've already headed south. Females & young stick around longer.
I've been seeing these little guys with spotted stripes coming in on their throats.. which could be juvenile males.
With legs & feet so tiny, they can't walk or hop like other birds.. they can only perch, and shuffle along a branch a bit. They can scratch their heads, though.
With wings that beat an average of 52 beats per second, it thrills me to photograph these guys.
They aren't just busy at the feeder. They love my petunia hanging on the front porch & flowers everywhere.
I was sitting on the ground, patiently trying to photograph the cedar waxwings in our Mountain Ash tree this weekend, when a little hummer flew up to sip from some purple clover nearby.
She was gone in a flash, but I managed to get my focus on her for a fleeting second.
A few years ago, we had a hummingbird fly right into our kitchen. The kids had left the patio door open for a minute, and our back deck was full of flowers at the time - which was popular with the hummers. One flew right in the door. We had such a time trying to catch it with our vaulted ceilings. It's difficult to butterfly net something that can hover up & down & fly backwards.
We eventually opened the door & guided it back out successfully.
Do you have hummers in your yard? Or your kitchen? ☺
*Update: I've received all kinds of comments & questions about hummingbirds.
Here is some added information: (Source)
Rubythroats’ hearts beat more than 600 times per minute, and during great exertion may beat 1200 times per minute. The average for birds is 200 and for humans is 72.
Rubythroats at rest take about 250 breaths per minute. Wild turkeys take about 7 and humans take about 12.
During regular flight, females beat their wings about 53 times per second and males beat their wings about 70 times per second. Compare this to 4.3 for the European starling and 4.9 for the American goldfinch.
Rubythroats can fly in any direction: they are the only birds that can fly backwards! The number of wing beats varies depending on the maneuver: forward, backward, up, down or hover. During some behaviors, rubythroats may beat their wings up to 200 times per second.
They can achieve a speed of more than 50 mph.
To support their energy requirements, rubythroats must feed almost constantly during the day, at least every ten minutes.
At their normal metabolic rate, rubythroats would starve to death in a few hours without food. When food sources are scarce, as well as during cool spells, hummingbirds can enter a state of torpor to conserve energy.
While they may live as long as 12 years, their typical life span is three to five years.
Hummingbirds have few natural predators. It is the long migration, twice a year, that claims most lives. Because rubythroats are generally a short-lived species, each year’s breeding success is absolutely critical to the continuation of their species.
The biggest threat to hummingbirds is development, resulting in the loss of habitat and nectar-rich wetland plants. By providing appropriate nectar sources and breeding habitat in your yard and garden, you can help make up for the loss of hummingbird habitat, and increase their chances of survival.
How to Feed Your Hummers:
- Make artificial nectar by mixing one part table sugar in four parts boiling water. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Cool before filling feeders. Refrigerate any remaining nectar; dispose of unused nectar after one week.
- Do not add red food coloring: it may cause hummingbird health problems.
- Do not use honey or artificial sweeteners, as these may also cause health problems.
- Place feeders in the shade in areas safe from cats.
- Clean feeders are crucial. Clean and sanitize nectar feeders every two or three days, and more often in hot weather.
We keep just one feeder out, and the trees in the woods around our yard are bursting with hummingbird activity. They're getting most of their nectar from natural sources.
Sharing with Tuesday Muse Our World Tuesday Wild Bird Wednesday Little Things Thursday