Hummingbirds – those tiny, colorful, thin-beaked birds, called hummers from the noise that occurs when they flap their wings – are back at our feeders.
Fall migration is from mid-July through August or early September, so they’re migrating. That usually means we fill our feeders every day instead of once a week like we do for the little flock that winters over with us.
There are lots more hummingbirds than usual this year and we’re filling the feeders twice a day!
- They cannot walk or hop on their tiny feet. They can scoot sideways while perched at feeders. Their small feet have evolved for more efficient flying.
- Their long beak does not work like a straw but they have a fringed, forked tongue to lick nectar up into their throat.
- A hummingbird egg is smaller than a jellybean.
- The average lifespan is three to five years.
- They have no sense of smell but very keen eyesight.
About their migration . . .
- The ruby-throated hummingbird flies five hundred miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during migrations. They do not hitch rides on other birds.
- Their maximum forward flight speed is thirty miles per hour but can reach up to sixty miles per hour in a dive.
- Their wings beat between 50 and 200 flaps per second depending on the direction of flight, the purpose of their flight, and the surrounding air conditions.
- Their wings rotate 180 degrees, enabling backward flight and stationary hovering.
About their behavior . . .
- They have superior memories and will return to the same feeders and gardens every year.
- They’re not always docile creatures and will regularly attack jays, crows, and hawks that infringe on their territory.
- They consume one-half of their weight in sugar daily and feed on average five to eight times per hour, which explains why we have to fill the feeders so often.
- One hummingbird will guard all the feeders, chasing intruders away. Here’s our little guard hummer protecting one feeder.
The most important thing we’ve learned is hummingbirds prefer plain, clear homemade nectar to red dye which may be dangerous. When we tested the claim, our hummers refused to drink the red stuff and disappeared until clear nectar reappeared.
My homemade nectar recipe: One cup of sugar dissolved in four cups of boiling water and then cooled before filling feeders. I store leftovers in the refrigerator.
Your hummers will love it too and you can enjoy a hummingbird show like we do.