It’s spring, and folks will likely see a lot more activity around their feeders as migratory birds return to their summer breeding grounds throughout Canada. One long distance migrant, the ruby-throated hummingbird, isn’t likely to appear until May, but we still thought we’d feature the species as our Photo of the Month. Thank you, April Stampe, for the great pic!
The ruby-throated hummingbird is the most common and widely distributed hummingbird in Canada. It’s the only species of hummingbird that breeds in the eastern deciduous and mixed forests of eastern North America.
The legs of a ruby-throated hummingbird are too short for it to walk or hop, but it can shuffle along a perch. When it comes time to scratch its head or neck, the hummingbird raises its foot over its wing to scratch.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds eat flower nectar, small insects and spiders, tree sap, and will eat at hummingbird feeders. It hovers at flowers to feed, and can beat its wings 55-75 times per second!
The hummingbirds show preference to feeder locations but not to feeder colours. They also catch insects in flight, pluck them from leaves, and pluck spiders from their webs. Hummingbirds extract the nectar by inserting their long, extensible, tubular tongue into the flower’s honey wells, or in larger flowers. It pierces the neck of the blossom to extract the drop of nectar. Brightly coloured flowers (red or orange) that show up well in dark shady places are more attractive to hummingbirds.
The ruby-throated hummingbird populations appear stable. Poor weather, such as cold and storms, are the most serious threats.
Read more about the ruby-throated hummingbird in our online bird guide.
As always you can check out previous photos of the month on our archives page.
UPDATE: Some of our readers rightly pointed out that when you’re putting your hummingbird feeders out this spring, be sure to avoid using artificial colouring in your nectar solution, which is both unnecessary and possibly harmful to birds. (The same is true of honey.) A sugar and water solution made at home is acceptable, though it is very important to change the solution every three days or so to prevent mold from forming. But the best way to attract hummingbirds to your yard is to grow native plants that supply real, natural nectar.