Tuesday, 10 April 2012


As spring arrives so do the hummingbirds! Though they haven’t quite made their way to Sudbury yet, it is only a matter of weeks!

There is said to be over 350 types of hummingbirds across the America's. Included in the hummingbird family is the smallest living bird, the Bee Hummingbird which has a wingspan of just 2 inches (for comparison the Ruby-Throated has a wingspan of about 4 inches). The most common species of hummingbird in our area is the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. The males are easily identified by their vibrant ruby throats. The females are a little more non-descript in their simple green plumage, bare throat, and white chest feathers. The average weight for an adult hummingbird is around 3.1 grams.

Females lay two pea sized eggs per clutch within 2-3 days of each other. Incubation lasts only a 2-3 weeks and each female will raise 2-3 broods each year, often reusing or rebuilding a previously used nest. The fledglings are cared for by their mother for only 14-20 days. Once they can feed themselves there are on their own. Though it is believed they can live up to 12 years they generally live somewhere between 3 to 5 years.

Feeding Hummingbirds is a great deal of fun because they are very tolerant of human activity. Though they may fly to the nearest tree when someone approaches they quickly return to the feeder when they do not feel threatened. This means that the feeders can be placed very close to your house making it a breeze to watch these zippy little birds. It is also very entertaining to watch the hummingbirds chase each other around the yard trying to guard the feeder.
Speaking of feeders there is a wide variety of hummingbird feeders available. Some are more decorative while others place function first. There are really just two things to consider when choosing a hummingbird feeder. It is recommended to select one that will prevent insects such as wasps and ants from getting into the nectar and one that has as little yellow on it as possible.
Bees and wasps alike are attracted to the colour yellow. Most feeders have yellow port holes. These should either be painted red or swapped for red ones.
The best solution, however, is to choose a feeder that makes the nectar inaccessible to them. Hummingbirds have long tongues and can get at nectar in a feeder that is constructed so that the solution is in a reservoir too deep for insects to reach. There are also attachments that can be added to the port holes making it impossible for the insects to reach the nectar.

Once the bees and wasps find your feeder they will communicate its location to the hive. Moving your feeder can thwart their efforts, though only temporarily.

For the nectar mix 1 part sugar (plain white granulated sugar) with 3 parts water. We do however recommend to use a pre-mixed solution or specially formulated hummingbird food powder which has extra calcium and vitamins which is essential for females when breeding! We carry both pre-mixed liquid hummingbird food as well as powdered hummingbird food (just add water) at the Backyard Birder Nature Gift Shop!

Fun Facts

·         Wing beats: 40-80 per second, average of 52

·         Heart rate: 250 beats per minute (resting), 1200 beats per minute (feeding)

·         Flight speed: 48 kph in normal flight, 80 kph when escaping, and up to 100 kph when in a dive

·         Nonstop migration from southern Canada to Gulf of Mexico

·         Males migrate earlier, while breeding females and juveniles will wait until the first frost

·         Nests are about 2” in diameter

·         Eggs are no bigger than a pea 

·        Largest species has a wingspan over 8 inches
·        Smallest has a wingspan of just 2 inches
Hummingbirds are a joy to have in your yard during the late spring and summer months. You can track their migration here and also report any sightings throughout the summer! Make sure to stop by the store for all your hummingbird needs!

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