If you are a birder, you are anticipating the arrival of your hummingbirds that you have been missing all winter. I know I am! Here in Western Mass, the most common (and only hummingbird I have encountered so far) is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. This tiny bird is both adorable and amazing! According to the migration maps I have checked out, these hummingbirds have been sighted in both Connecticut and Rhode Island already so we are next! In fact, someone in Bridgeport reported a sighting on the birding pages, so they may already be here in Mass! I will be making my nectar and putting out my feeders this week! These little birds are flapping their wings 15-80 times A SECOND to get their little bodies here from Mexico, Central America and the southeastern states in the USA. The flowers are just starting to bloom here, so they will need our help to get the nectar they need to replace the body weight they will lose flying up to 23 hours a day!
The males will generally arrive first. They are more colorful than the females as is typical in the avian world. But the male hummingbirds go a step further. They have an extra body part called the gorget! This colorful patch of feathers in the front throat area is what we can see shimmering an iridescent red in the correct lighting-giving our local hummingbird its name. Both the male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are tiny at only 2-3” in length and weigh 2-6 grams. The breeding male has bright green feathers on his head and back, with lighter green patches near his grayish underparts. He has a white chest, and bright red throat patch and a darker, fork-like tail that you can see when he is hovering. The non-breeding male has more of a bronzed, light green color to his feathers, with a paler shade on his crown. He has a white throat area with greenish flecks. The female looks similar to the non-breeding male but lacks the greenish sparkle. She is more of a tannish-muted green color everywhere with a white chest and belly that has some light, tannish streaking. They all have a long, straight, black beak that allows them to reach into flowers to gather the nectar there.
These hummingbirds live in forest edges, meadows and gardens all over Western Mass. They drink the nectar from lots of different flowers and eat insects. They will readily come to hummingbird feeders. I have read that the same birds return to the same yards during their 3–5-year lifespan. I believe this as my hummingbirds let me hand feed them every year! These birds are SO MUCH fun to watch as they whiz all over the yard. Mine are quite territorial with their feeders. I see the males chasing off anyone other than their current “mate” or babies all the time. Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards and their hovering behavior with rapidly beating wings is easily recognizable. They are not afraid to come close to feeders with you nearby, so you can even hear the fan-like sound their wings make! As for feeding them, I posted an article in the resources so you can see the importance of ONLY feeding the pure, white sugar mixed with boiled water. The ratio should be close to 1 part sugar to 4 parts water-no food coloring or additives. You can also purchase a protein feeder as I show below. I put rotten bananas in it, which attracts fruit flies. The Hummingbirds eat the larvae for extra protein during breeding. I have another hint. Last year, I discovered that my hummers LOVED the nectar from my Lantana flowers as shown below.
The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird is different from the other birds I have blogged about when it comes to raising little hummingbirds. These guys are players. They do not mate for life or even a season. They do not help the female to build the tiny cup-shaped nest made of plant down and bud scales, lichen, and spider web silk. They will not help at all to raise the 1 or 2 broods of 2 tiny white eggs. The males will hang out and mate with any takers between April and August and will migrate back earlier than the females. These birds make 3 sounds basically. They all sound like variations of the same chirping to me. They have one sound for when they “display” for the females and 2 other “calls”. I included some pictures and audio below as usual. You can see a video of me hand-feeding one on my Instagram page I just started (QR Code below). I would love it if you could post to my Facebook or Instagram when you first see these beautiful birds in your yards as well as where you are located. And for my readers from other places, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see your different hummingbirds! As always, I hope you subscribe and comment. Thanks! Robin 😊
Thanks for the heads up and all the great info! I will be making nectar this week!
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I hope people are educated how important it is to keep feeders free of mold.
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