An iridescent green above and mostly white below, the male has a brilliant ruby-red gorget (throat), which appears black in low light. The sides and flanks are olive green, and the tiny green tail is deeply forked with blackish outer tail feathers.
The female has the iridescent green above and white below, lacks the olive green sides, and has a rounder tail, with white spots on the outer edges. Juveniles are similar to females.
The most common sound coming from the hummer is the whir of its wings as it zips through the air on its errands of life. Capable of flying in all directions, including backward, though only briefly, their wings beat up to 80 times per second, with the average being about 50 times per second.
The second most common sound coming from the bird is its squeaky call note, given frequently as it chases off an intruder. And chase it will. Hummers are notorious for defending a food source, whether an artificial feeder or a flowerbed—and is not above using its sword-like bill in combat if pushed too far by other hummers, other bird species, and even butterflies.
Speaking of being impressively tough, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds have a remarkable spring migration, flying north over the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 600 miles, for up to 20 hours—nonstop. Before heading north, the birds approximately double their weight in fat for reserve fuel to sustain that distance. Scientists think their fall migration back to their wintering grounds of Mexico and Central America is a more leisurely trek following the coastline.
Hummers are limited in motion to flight. They have very tiny, weak feet and can’t move about well on them, although they can be seen shuffling along a perch.
Preferring red, tubular flowers, these birds will explore any potential source of nectar. Scientists think that in its northernmost range, here inMaine, for instance, the hummer’s breeding season may be correlated to the flowering of wild columbine, and, in fact, the two may have co-evolved. Hummers are also fond of jewelweed, trumpet creeper, bee balm, honeysuckle and hosta.
To attract hummers to your yard, plant plenty of annuals with your perennials, and aim for color throughout the season. The birds will zip through the garden throughout the day, feeding and pollinating from flower to flower.
Hummers love water and bathing. Don’t be surprised if a hummer whizzes through the fine spray of the hose or sprinkler as you water the flowerbeds or lawn. Their natural manner of bathing is by washing up in water collected in leaves after a rainfall.
Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds raise their brood—and sometimes two broods—alone. There is no pair bonding between the sexes. They mate and the male dashes off to find another female. The female may copulate with more than one male, although this is not known for certain.
For nest construction, the female chooses plant down, such as dandelion, and bud scales, creating a thick inner layer lining the nest, held together with spider webbing. The outer nest, up to one-and-three-quarter inches in diameter, and about an inch on the inside, is most often covered in lichen.
For the first few days after the two white, pea-sized eggs hatch, the female will eat or remove the fecal sacs to keep the nest clean. By about day three, however, the tiny young will back up to the edge of the nest and defecate over the nest’s rim.
For some positively darling hummingbird photos and to whet your appetite to read up on these birds, go online to http://community-2.webtv.net/Velpics/HUM/. On this site, you can view a hummingbird nest, including eggs and developing chicks, photographed by an unknown individual back in 2005, and put on the Web for all to enjoy. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of each page and click on “next picture” to see the entire run. Let me know what you think of these mighty wee creatures.
Just like the little hummingbird, we at Marine Parts Express fight for our customers to get the parts they need. However, unlike the visiting bird, we are unwilling to fly such a distance, but are most happy to ship parts all over the world. Visit Marine Parts Express online at www.marinepartsexpress.com or call us toll free at 877.621.2628.
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Marine Parts Express is a division of Water Resources, Inc., a privately held Maine Corporation.
For all your marine engine parts needs, call us toll free at 877.621.2628, or outside the U.S. at 207.882.6165.
May 25, 2011 / Noreen O'Brien / 0
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