August 27, 2013

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Small Wonders.

One of my favorite sounds lately is the squeaky chatter of the hummingbirds, who are busier than ever around our yard.
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.
Providing lots of nectar producing plants & flowers is best for these birds.
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

46 comments:

  1. Whoa! Awesome captures, Amanda. I have recently seen a hummer flitting around my front porch so I need to get my feeder up. I've never seen any where we live until this summer but after the fantastic info you shared about them migrating to Mexico, I had better feed them while I can :)

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  2. How wonderful that would be. I've never seen a hummingbird but think they are some of the most amazing birds on our amazing earth. I'll choose to be content with our little Blue Wrens and other flighted visitors.

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  3. The hummers have been very scarce this season -- I've only seen a couple and wasn't successful in taking any photos.

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  4. Beautiful!
    I always love to visit site like yours with wonderful shots.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Hope to see you on my blog:)

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  5. Is the activity ever picking up!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  6. Love those tiny helicopter creatures... xox

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  7. Your images are FANTASTIC!
    Sadly I haven't seen many hummers this year.

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  8. I dont even have hummers on my continent!! Glad the kitchen bird escaped.

    I was a science teacher for almost 20 years - which seems remarkable when I see it written down! I still cant help the "science communication" thing happening as you may have noticed from my blogs!

    Cheers - Stewart M.

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  9. I had one buzzing around my head this morning when I was watering the cucumber trellis! I enjoyed the info about these amazing tiny birds.

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  10. They are my favorite little birds. We have hummers that winter over sometimes here in the Pacific Northwest, Anna's Hummingbirds. I stopped feeding the birds a while back, but I still have lots of hummers in the neighborhood, since lots of other apartment dwellers feed them. I love your pictures! :-)

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  11. we've had fewer this year, and sadly, one little one died after crashing into the deck windows, but we still have a few. i hope to see more as they come thru on their journey south.

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  12. This is great! Love your images. I can't manage to get any, as my bummers dart away so quickly. We are able to observe them through our window. We have one feeder up. Currently we have one ruby throat, and one with a white patch on the throat that my kids call "Little White Bubble" the Ruby they call Reuben.

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  13. Use to put out a feeder but now I don't. I still see them getting drinks and taking baths in our front fountain.

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  14. We've had them in our yard, as well. In fact, I came up close twice this summer while photographing butterflies in our butterfly bush--they sure do make a very distinct sound! Course I didn't get shots like these! They are beautiful. And never had one in the kitchen either!

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  15. Great photos! I love hummingbirds. We sometimes get them in our backyard. Great story about the one that got stuck in your house.

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  16. We have a few hummingbirds in our yard, and we have also noted the increased activity around the feeders. We've never had one in the house, however. You got some great pictures of the hummingbirds.

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  17. I have a feeder on my front porch and was just wondering when they'd be leaving / your article is very interesting and I love your photos. I have not managed to get any good ones

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  18. Wonderful photos and interesting statistics! Last year I had lots of hummingbirds. This year hardly any.

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  19. Interesting to read about these small, beautiful birds.
    I have never seen them unfortunately.
    Nice photos!

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  20. These are great captures. I've really enjoyed having them hang around my feeders this summer, too.

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  21. Hummers outside, yes but none inside. We have had one or two get there beaks caught in our screen porch screening. I had to help them with that. They are amazing birds and vry smart. They buzzed me several times in the garden when I failed to put the feeder back up.

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  22. M parents have a lot in their backyard/oasis...and the males fight quite a bit. :) So cute to watch!

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  23. We're seeing hummers in NE Illinois now. Nice capture of the hummer in flight, and happy to know the entrapped bird got out safely.

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  24. Beautiful birds and they certainly make an amazing migration for such a tiny bird.

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  25. That's a long way to go for such a tiny bird, great series.

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  26. Oh my gosh, I can't believe one got in your house! How crazy. I have seen some hummingbirds around our garden lately hanging out by the butterfly bushes. I need to put some feeders out there for them. I never get a good look because they always fly away when I get close. I need a good zoom lens! Your shots are awesome!

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  27. Thank you so much for enlightening me on these amazing little birds! We don`t have them here unfortunately but I adore them when I can observe them while traveling.I had no idea that they live so far in the North of the US. Thanks!

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  28. What gorgeous captures and post, hope that one indoors finally got out safely

    I'm inviting you to join us for Travel Photo Mondays, the link runs all week so I hope you can join us for the next installment?

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  29. Beautiful shots of the hummingbirds, they are so sweet!

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  30. They are such amazing little birds. We have only a few around this year, but they are a joy to watch.

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  31. They are truly wondrous creatures and you photographed and told their story very well, Amanda. Thanks :)

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  32. You are so lucky to have so many of these wonderful birds in your area. I've only seen one (briefly) this summer and my mom saw on her begonia plants but by the time I looked it was gone. They are amazing and I loved that you captured the one on the clover.

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  33. no hummers my side of the world (wish there were) but I always enjoy seeing them on blog posts like this; lovely photographs

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  34. I love hummingbirds. We have them visit our cabin. They love our flags on the porch. I feel bad that we don't have a feeder, but we aren't at our cabin all the time and I worry about them becoming dependent on the artificial food. - Margy

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  35. I've often wondered what the lifespan is of hummingbirds. With their wings fluttering so fast their heart rate must be one really high. I haven't seen one in years. My mother, in Georgia, used to have her feeders out every year and she insisted that some of the same birds returned for several seasons.

    Your pictures are delightful.

    My Wild Bird Wednesday is at:

    http://rnsane.blogspot.in/2013/08/wild-bird-wednesday-59-kites-not-those.html

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  36. Hi Amanda Such wonderful little birds that you have living so close to you. Wonderful shots

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  37. Thanks for all the additional information. Hummingbirds are really amazing!

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  38. Wow - what an experience, what a bird!

    Love your 5 header images, beautiful

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  39. So gorgeous, we really enjoyed having a hummingbird feeder when we lived in TX. I just found it a box in the basement here. I'm certainly going to use it next spring!

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  40. I've never seen a hummingbird alive - It seems so tiny and precious - fine in the line and movements (such a speed with the wings - Thank you for sharing all the information! The feeder is a sweet thing - hope they'll tank up for their long journey!

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  41. Lovely entry and I so adore Hummingbirds. My entry has them for the week too ;)

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  42. I wish one of them visited my house too. Such great captures.

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