Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wednesday Bird of the Week: August 29, 2018

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) perched on the
nectar feeder.
I have chosen the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) as this weeks bird of the week because they will soon be gone from this area and I have been seeing them more frequently due to their migration. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird migrates every Fall back to it's wintering grounds in Central America and then back again in the Spring as far north as southern Canada.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only commonly found hummingbird species in the Midwest region of the United States. They are beautiful, fast fliers who feed on nectar and some small insects. Hummingbirds are the only species of bird that can fly backwards and even hover. This is a very useful skill when you have to stay in place to get nectar out of the depths of a tubular flower.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can be very territorial (see video at the end of this post). I have only observed the chasing behavior from the males of the species, and only rarely does the dominant male at my feeder let a female join him.

The males of this species have a very distinct red patch on their throats (hence the name Ruby-throated), but the females lack this patch. With a green overall body color and white belly, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is easily distinguished from other hummingbird species that migrate through this area.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are of low conservation concern, and with people being attracted to many flowering plants that have long, tube-shaped flowers, food is not hard for these busy birds to find. If you feed hummingbirds in a nectar feeder, it is now recommended not to give them the red nectar commonly found in stores. They can't process the red dye (Red 40) used in this nectar. I have recently switched to a homemade nectar which is four parts water and one part sugar (one cup water and 1/4 cup sugar). Since switching, I have had more hummingbirds at my feeder than ever before, with five at one time.

The nests of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird can be found in trees or bushes, but is very hard to spot because it is so small. They make their nests out of spider silk and lichen and the nest is able to stretch as the nestlings grow. So if you have ever seen a nest of a hummingbird and wondered how more than one bird could possibly fit in something so small, don't worry, they have it covered. Once the nestlings are ready to fledge, the nest is mostly flat and no longer provides much protection or camouflage needed to protect the young birds.

If you have taken your feeders down because you hadn't seen a hummingbird in a while, I would recommend putting them back up for a a few more weeks at least. Help a hummingbird store enough energy to make the migration this year so that hopefully we can all enjoy more next year.


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