Hummers in the Summer
I think it’s safe to say that I get pretty excited and enthusiastic about nature and birds are one of my favorite things to watch, study, and photograph. Of the birds, I think most people who birdwatch or feed birds would agree that the diminutive little hummingbirds are amazing, to say the least!
Here in South Carolina, our most common and normally the one attracted to our feeders are the ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris). Although we get occassional other species, the RTHB is the one you most commonly see at your feeders. These little birds are absolutely incredible and when you look at the facts about these little powerhouses, you can’t help but be amazed. Here are a few humminbird facts:
- Adult humming birds weigh in at about 1/8 of an inch and have about a 4″ wingspan
- They beat their wings in a figure “8″ pattern, which allows them to fly sideways, backwards, and hover in place
- Their body temperature averages about 105 degrees Farenheit
- Their resting heartbeat is about 250 beats/minute, but this jumps up to 1200 beats/minute when they are feeding
- They normally fly about 30 mph, but can generate 50 mph in a burst of “escape” speed, and even reach 60 mph in a dive
- An adult hummingbird consumes around two times their body weight per day in nectar (and some insects, etc.)
- Hummingbirds live about 5-7 years in the wild, with the oldest male recorded at 5 years old and the oldest female at 9 years of age
- Nests are made with spider silk, camoflauged with liches, and lined with dandelion, cattail, and thistle down. Because of the silk, the nest can expand as the nestlings grow
It can certainly be fun and rewarding to put up hummingbird feeders and when you do, you certain to see males, females, and immatures. Here’s a few hints on helping you tell them apart:
- Adult male hummingbirds are emerald green on the head and back, with a brilliant pinkish-purple gorget or throat patch that may look black in some light. They also have a forked tail with little to no white on the outside tail feathers
- Adult females are larger and have longer beaks than males. They have an emerald green back and head, white throat, chest, and belly, and have a rounded tail with white spots or patches on the outer tail feathers.
- Immature or juvenile RBH’s look similar to the female and may have rounded tails with some white spots, a clean white chest and belly, but they will have black lines on the throat and if it is an immature male, you may
see single bright pinkish-purple feathers, depending on the time of year. The photo of the immature RTHB to the right shows a single brilliant throat feather starting to come in!
The RTHB immatures will completely molt once a year and at the end of the year before they migrate, they will begin to resemble the adult male with the bright throat and forked tail.
Take time to put out hummingbird feeders and remember that it is not necessary to color the nectar with red food coloring. Clean the feeders once a week and replace it with a 4-1 0r 5-1 mixture of water and white granulated sugar. Boil it for a couple of minutes and let it cool. Keep extra nectar in the ‘fridge and hopefully, the hummers will find your feeders and you can sit back and watch these little birds put on a show!
This entry was posted on Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 at 8:45 pm and is filed under Articles, August 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.