April 5 – Hummingbirds are on their way back to Connecticut. One was sighted in in Connecticut on April 3rd and one was seen in Massachusetts yesterday. The hummers seem to be coming back to us earlier each year. It used to be early May, but now it seems to be sometime in April. So be on the look out for them around any flowering plants that may be in bloom. It is just so fun to watch them dart around searching for plant nectar or a feeder to dine on. So it is also now time to clean your old hummingbird feeder and put it out there in your yard.
The hummingbird species that is found in CT is the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. They spend the winter in Central America. From March through May, they migrate north. Arrival time on the breeding grounds tends to not occur until food plants are blooming. To find out how far they have come to date, take a look at the excellent migration map on the Hummingbirds! web site.
What do they look like?
Hummingbirds are the smallest bird in the world. With an average length 3.5 inches and weight of one eighth of an ounce, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird gets its name from the color of the male’s ruby-red throat, although in some lighting situations it can appear to be black. The female is totally different, with its throat being covered in white feathers. The male has a forked tail while the female has a rounded tail with white-tipped tail feathers. The emerald green feathers covering their backs are the one thing the two sexes have in common. The young of both sexes look like the adult female.
What do they do?
Hummingbirds will usually return to southeastern Connecticut around April 15, but you can put the feeder up as early as April first to feed early arrivals. Leave the feeder up until the end of September or as long as hummingbirds still come to it. Hummingbirds flying south rely on temperature, day length and other environmental cues to start migration. Your feeder may help them survive an early cold snap, but will not keep them from making their southward journey.
Ruby-throats are intensely inquisitive and easily attracted to feeders, where males in particular display aggressive territoriality toward rival hummers, other birds, and even insects such as bees, butterflies, and sphinx moths. They quickly become accustomed to human presence, and will swoop down to investigate red articles of clothing as potential food sources.
Many hummingbird watchers find “Hummer Wars” endlessly entertaining, although the chases are obviously serious business to the hungry birds. as they rival other hummers and insects in pursuit of food.
The flight of hummingbirds is amazing to watch. They are able to fly up, down, forward, backward and sideways. They can stop in midair. Hummingbirds are famous for their aerial display. Their normal flight speed is 30 mph ,50 mph in escape, and 63 mph in a dive. The Ruby-Throat migrates approximately 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico. They can beat their wings 60 to 200 times per second. They can live 5-6 years in the wild. Check out the many hummingbird videos on Vimeo’s Hummingbird Channel to see them in action.
What do they eat?
Hummingbirds require lots of energy. They have the fastest wing beats of any bird, around 70 beats per second and up to 200 beats per second during a high speed dive. A hummingbird’s heart beats up to 1,200 beats per minute. Because of their high energy requirements, they must feed continuously during their waking hours. Hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of any animal on earth. Their high energy requirements cause them to eat more than they weigh each and every day.
Hummingbirds mostly eat flower nectar. Hummingbirds may visit 1,000 flower per day in their search for nectar. But hummers need more than just sugar to survive. They also need protein. That’s why they eat small bugs inside flowers, and sometimes pick bugs out of spider webs for food. About a third of their diet consists of small insects and spiders which they sometimes catch in mid-air. In early spring, before the flowers bloom, hummers will follow Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. These woodpeckers peck holes in trees to get sap. The hummer can lick the sap and eat the bugs around these holes!
How to attract them?
You can attract hummingbirds by planting red flowers and putting up a hummingbird feeder. You can tie some red ribbons to the pole where the feeder hangs.
Mix four parts water with one part sugar. Heat just to a boil and remove. Do not add red food coloring. Let the solution cool before filling the feeder. Change the solution often, especially during warm weather. I usually make twice as much as needed and put the remainder in the refrigerator. It is important to keep any nectar feeder clean and filled with fresh solution. Use only table sugar and never honey or artificial sugars. Clean
your feeder every three to four days. Use only warm or hot water and a soft brush to clean the feeder. Ants sometimes get into the sugar water feeder. You can buy an ant trap to keep ants from entering the feeder.
My next blog in May will be about what you can plant in your garden to attract birds and butterflies, so be on the lookout for more tips on attracting hummers, but until then, here is a good link to the top ten plants that attract hummers.
Live Like A Hummingbird
Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes
for love, joy and celebration. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover
and savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer
and celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace
reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere and and that
every personal connection has meaning.
Live Like A Hummingbird !
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