Bird feeding enthusiasts are very excited because ruby-throated hummingbirds have returned to the eastern United States. These miniature marvels have been migrating between North and Central America for thousands of years, a round trip in which millions of hummingbirds instinctively participate.
For the next few months, backyards will play host to these amazing, food-frenzied birds. Hummingbirds possess the fastest metabolism of any animal on the planet, burning between one to two times their body weight in food every day.
Despite popular belief, hummingbirds do not suck up nectar with their bills. They actually lap it up with their tongues, drawing nectar from its source up and into their mouths almost 12 times a second.
Did you know August is the best opportunity to see hummingbirds as they prepare to head south again? Adult hummingbirds are joined by a horde of juveniles as they prepare to head south to Central America and their winter territories, some traveling thousands of miles.
En route to their destination, hummingbirds will take part in an eating binge that is unmatched at any other time of the year. A high-calorie diet is important to build fat reserves for their migratory trip. So be sure to have your hummingbird feeders filled with a nectar solution. A simple four to one ratio creates the perfect nectar recipe (four cups of water and one cup of plain table sugar).
Bird banding studies indicate that with very few exceptions, the hummingbirds visiting your feeders on a late-migration day are completely replaced by a new wave of migrants within 24 hours.
To estimate the number of hummingbirds using your feeders during migration, multiply times five. For example, if you see 10 hummingbirds at your feeder at one time, you will have about 50 passing through your yard that day.
It’s estimated that more than seven million ruby-throated hummingbirds return to the tropics each winter, along with six million rufous, three million broad-tailed, and millions of other individuals of various hummingbird species.
Visit us at Wild Birds Unlimited soon, and we’ll make sure you have everything you need to enjoy these miniature migrating marvels. To find a location near you, visit www.wbu.com.
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By Susan Martin for Proven Winners,
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners
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