Young, old, male, and female, we have hundreds of customers that just can’t wait for the arrival of their hummingbirds each year. If we don’t have our hummingbird supplies out by the 1st of March we hear about it! Normally mid-April is when they first appear in our area. Generally male “scouts” will be the first to arrive. In Indiana, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is just about all that you will see. And the easy way to tell the difference between the male and the female is the males have a bright ruby-colored throat.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird spends the winter in Central America & Mexico. The change in daylight duration, the blossoming of flowers, and of course instinct tells them when to start heading back north. It is generally thought that the hummingbird can travel 20 – 30 miles per day. However, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds usually first appear in the United States around March 1st on the Gulf of Mexico coast from Louisiana to Florida. That means some will actually make a huge jump right across the Gulf of Mexico! That means a possible flight of 500-600 miles without rest! Amazing.
Cold fronts, headwinds, and heavy rain all slow down the migration north. And of course they need flower blooms and other food supplies to be plentiful on their way. If mother nature is delayed, the hummingbirds will be delayed. They fly alone, and low, just over the tree tops or water, often on the same path as previous years.
Did you know that a hummingbird can fly up to 60 mph (miles per hour)! They can fly forwards, backwards, sideways, up, down, hover, and for short distances, even upside down. At rest, their heart beats 250 times per minute and during flight it will pick up to 1300 beats per minute. They will flap their wings from 30 – 70 times per second in normal flight, but can beat them up to 200 times per second during courtship dives. They have to consume almost their entire body weight, all of 0.1 ounce, in nectar, sap, and insects, yes they eat insects, every day. They are not only the world’s smallest bird, but the smallest known animal with a backbone. The average life-span of a Ruby-Throated hummingbird is estimated by experts to be 3 – 5 years. Hummingbirds do not “pair up” as do many birds, but instead the male and female go their own way after mating is complete. The male will move on to other females. The female is left with the job of building the nest, incubating the eggs and raising the young birds.
Hummingbirds have a variety of calls, chips, chatters and squeals to communicate with each other. Each species has its own “language” to alert others or to challenge “invaders” of their feeding territories. If you have any hummingbirds at your house, you know that it is always a treat to be close to the feeder when multiples are around. The sounds, the “battles”, and just trying to count how many you truly have all make for a fun experience.
Right now it seems like the big discussion is red nectar or clear. Our customers seem to be split 50/50 on what they think is right. All I know is that my wife is adamant about making her own with lots of sugar and a pan of hot water on the stove. It works well for her. What’s your preference?
There is a great migration chart on the hummingbirdcentral.com website that actually shows in real time how far north the hummingbirds have been sighted. As of the writing of this article, the hummingbirds are already into Kentucky, so get ready, here come the hummingbirds!