Hummingbirds have returned to
The arrival of the ruby throated hummingbird enlivens many gardens and yards with it’s presence. An Indiana Inn and Spa, Songbird Prairie sited the first arrival on April 29th. Males are fiercely combative and will defend a single nectar source against all comers. Spectacular flights, constant chittering, the the low hum of beating wings, and the occasional smack of tiny bodies colliding is familiar to anyone staying here at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast, Valparaiso IN.
Seen in direct sunlight, the male’s ruby throat patch dazzles. Both male and female are iridescent green above. The female’s underparts are white, and she sports white spots on her rounded tail. Males appear smaller and darker overall with grayish-olive underparts and a slightly forked all dark tail. A squeaky chip is uttered constantly while feeding. It’s almost like the male is talking, “this is my nectar feeder, find your own”. Males sing a seldom heard, monotonous song from exposed perches at daybreak.
Rubythroats prefer mixed deciduous woodlands with clearings, where wildflowers and abundant small insects can be found. They’re fairly common in forested areas across the entire eastern US, falling off abruptly at the great plains. Virtually all rubythroats leave for the winter, many making the arduous nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico on fat reserves alone. Ruby throats winter in Central America.
Though they are usually regarded as wholly insectivorous, ruby throats take a great number of small insects, which they catch by gleaning or in aerial pursuit. They may even rob spider webs of their catch. They are strongly attracted to red or orange flowers, but rubythroats will take nectar from flowers of any color. They hover and probe rapidly, often perching to feed.
Here at Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa in Northwest Indiana, you will see them perching all the time as they feed on the various nectar feeders.
Once a male rubythroat has mated, his investment in the offspring is over. The female constructs a walnut-sized, thick-walled cup of plant down and spider silk, bound tightly with elastic spider web and encrusted with lichens. This well-insulated nest protects the two lentil-sized eggs when she must leave to forage. The young hatch after about 13 days and remain in the nest for about 21 days. The female regurgitates small insects and nectar into their crops. They are fed for at least a week or longer after fledging.
Attract rubythroats with a 1:4 solution of white table sugar and water that is boiled for 2 minutes. Wash feeders with hot soapy water and rinse well every few days. Artificial coloring in unnecessary. To thwart a bullying male, hang several feeders within a few feet of each other he’ll be unable to defend them all.
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