Ruby-throated hummingbirds are migrating back into the area and I saw the first one last week. Thanks to the Internet (i.e., migration details), I knew they were close so I had already put out my small nectar feeder about two weeks ago. My first clue that they were back was not by sight – they are so tiny – but the noticeable thrum-hum noise that they make when they pass you by. That got my attention and I started to look more closely.
The brightly colored males are the first to arrive. I’m not sure why the ladies lag behind, but it is true in both migration directions. After the males mate with the females, they will continue northward. In the fall, the males will be the first to head south again.
|Ruby-throated male hummingbird|
The males are very skittish when it comes to human observation. It takes much effort on my part to get a picture of one of them. The slightest movement sends them flying off. During the summer, the ladies stay so long that it seems they get comfortable and good pictures of them nectaring on flowers are possible.
|A female ruby-throat on summer-flowering cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)|
If you like to support hummingbirds, having native plants is a good way to do it. Sugar water is not a perfect substitute for natural nectar although it helps to bring them closer to us for viewing. This article offers some detailed information on nectar calories.
In the spring I have 3 native plants blooming that are in the top ten native recommendations: coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is the first to bloom, followed by red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), and red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). I also saw him visit the newly opened Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens) this week.
|Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)|
Although I love seeing them at the nectar feeder, I’m always happiest to find them using the native plants.
The coral honeysuckle has about 3 flushes a year and the spring one is always the fullest one. The display is amazing right now.
I hope you’re seeing hummingbirds too. These tiny birds seem like a mini miracle of life every time they come back from their winter homes.