Information about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in my Connecticut garden. Plants that attract them, reproduction and migration.

Enchanting Hummingbirds

A Hummingbird visits the globe thistle in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A Hummingbird visits the globe thistle (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been mesmerized by hummingbirds. From their ability to fly almost at the speed of light in one moment and perch quietly on a limb the next, to their brilliantly colored bodies illuminated by the sunlight in a prism of shades, from emerald green to royal blue and ruby red. (Impossible to truly capture on film, although I continue to try). Yes, there is something special about hummingbirds – the tiniest of birds, yet in many ways the most amazing. Almost otherworldly or mystical, they are indeed magical.

Named for the humming sound produced by their fast moving wings (up to 80 times per second), some believe that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying hopes for love, joy, beauty and limitless opportunities. Native Americans thought of hummingbirds as sacred and associated them with beauty, harmony, industriousness and integrity. Hummingbirds were often portrayed as healers or spirit beings that helped people in need. But for most of us, hummingbirds are enchanted beings that flit about our yards bringing a sense of wonder whenever they pass by.

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird rests on the patio furniture in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird rests on the patio furniture (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

Although there are more than 300 species of hummingbirds throughout the world, there are only 8 species known to breed in the U.S. and only one commonly seen in my part of Connecticut: the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, (Archilochus colubris). The Ruby-throated hummingbird is one of the most common of all species of hummingbirds, primarily because of their ability to live comfortably among humans. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are found throughout the Eastern portion of North America as well as Canada and Mexico, where many migrate in winter months. Intelligent and curious, I often find hummingbirds nearby observing me when I garden. 

Female hummingbird visits a Mexican sunflower in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Female hummingbird visits a Mexican sunflower (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

Because of my extensively diverse gardens, there has always been a population of hummingbird activity. A hummingbird will visit hundreds of flowers per day for nectar, but will also eat small bugs for protein, so a garden full of native plants (that support native insects) creates the perfect balance. Hummingbirds are very attracted to brightly colored flowers, and particularly to the color red. Although there is no scientific proof, it is believed that hummingbirds see the color red more clearly, while pollen seeking insects focus more on flowers of yellow and gold, leaving more precious nectar in the darker blossoms for the hummingbirds. Long and tubular flowers are also adored by hummingbirds, as they can easily reach the nectar while insects cannot. Bright red hummingbird feeders will attract many to your gardens as well. Be sure to refill every few days with a fresh solution of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, boiled and cooled. No dyes please!  

Female hummingbird visits feeder outside my kitchen window in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Female hummingbird visits feeder outside my kitchen window. (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

Once you have attracted hummingbirds to your yard, they will continue to come back year after year and multiply. The females usually arrive in Connecticut sometime in May, but are very selective in choosing a mate (even though they do not mate for life as many other birds do). Once the romance is over, the male is off in search of other females while the female gets down to nest building. An adult female Ruby-throated hummingbird is about 3-1/2 inches in length and weighs a little less than a nickel (approx. 3 grams). Her nest is about 2 inches wide by 3 inches deep and made up of spider webs, lichen and plant parts. Optimally, she will lay two pea-sized eggs that will hatch within 14-20 days and remain in the nest for another 3 weeks. (A hummingbird’s average lifespan is between 4-5 years, sadly many will die within their first year). The babies are fed a collection of nectar, pollen and tiny insects that are regurgitated into their mouths. Once they leave the nest, the young will linger around following their mother to feeding areas. She will teach them to find food for a few weeks before chasing them away to find their own food sources. I have observed this “chasing” from both the garden and the feeder, as the established hummingbirds are very territorial, even with their young.

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird rests on fence during rain storm in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird rests on fence during rain storm (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are easily distinguished by their coloring; the adult male has a rich emerald green body and head with a distinctive red band around his throat, while the adult female has an iridescent green body, a grey head and white throat. Their coloring allows both male and female to blend easily within the vegetation for protection. Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly both forward and backwards, hover in mid-air, fly sideways and even upside-down, which also helps them avoid predators. Ruby-throated hummingbirds can fly an average of 25-30 miles per hour, dive up to 60 miles per hour and have been known to migrate up to 500 miles to spend winters in Central America, Mexico or Florida. 

Traveling hummingbird visits pineapple sage on its way south (Photo: Kathy Diemer) in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Traveling hummingbird visits pineapple sage on its way south. (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

As I write this in early September, most of my hummingbirds have already started their migration south. I will continue to keep my feeder full and tend to my flowering plants that I know they find most attractive, as my gardens will now be a pitstop for the hummingbirds traveling down from the North. Safe travels my precious little ones. I will look forward to seeing you all again next spring ♥

Comments

  1. Patty Wahlers says:

    Beautiful! I’ve never seen a Hummingbird sit anywhere…. Mine like the purple flowers here,but don’t hang around! I’ll look forward to them in the spring!

    • Yes, they will rest at the feeder, in branches or on a thin railing! If you plant bright colored flowers close to your house, you’ll be sure to see them next year. Thank you for writing!

  2. A half pound hummingbird?

    • LOL, Thank you Karen – I corrected this! I had so many pieces of info on hummingbirds that I wanted to share, I somehow got that figure mixed up. I don’t have a proofreader, so I appreciate the catch!

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

A Garden for All
Information about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in my Connecticut garden. Plants that attract them, reproduction and migration.