Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Going Home. . . How I Will Miss You!

FALL IS HERE! I know, I know it is still 100ยบ outside but now is the time to keep those hummingbird feeders up and full.

Autumn won’t arrive until September 22nd but despite the heat, the hummers have begun to migrate south. This hummingbird migration map is a great tool so be sure to bookmark this page not only to follow the fall migration but to prepare for the spring migration. Just click on this link: Migration Maps

Late summer into early fall is the peak of migration. About 75% of all the hummingbirds in the eastern half of the US migrate through Texas.  Out of 18 total species in the US, there are only two abundant species that nest in the east. They are the Ruby-throated (RT) and the black chinned, with the RT being the most abundant. 

Remember the hummers have made the spring migration to nest and raise their young so the number of birds migrating south may be twice that of the northward trip. The trip south includes all immature birds that hatched during the summer, as well as surviving adults. That is why you might be seeing so many at your feeders. It is important to leave the feeders up as long as possible.
Female RT

To make your own nectar, use 4 parts water to one part sugar (no red food coloring) and either boil or stir until the sugar is dissolved. Many of these birds fly non-stop, 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico, an 18-22 hour trip.  They have to double their fat reserves to make this trip so they need all the help we can give them. Double fat reserve. . hummm, I must be a hummingbird!

A few fun facts about hummingbirds:

  • native only to the Americas
  • can hover in mid-air
  • flap their wings 15-80 times per second (depending on the species)
  • can fly backwards or vertically
  • their name comes from the characteristic humming sound of their wings.
  • has a extendable tongue that allows it to “lap” up nectar
Female using her tail to slow down for a landing
Wings beat so fast they are blurred

Here at Holly Lake we see the RT Hummingbird. The adult male, which is smaller than the female, has an emerald green back and an iridescent ruby red gorget (throat) that may appear black under some lighting conditions, gray flanks, and forked tail with no white. The adult female has an emerald green back, white breast and throat, and a rounded tail with white tips.

Male RT - Photo courtesy of Kathy Baker
Male RT - Photo courtesy of Kathy Baker

By mid-November the fall migration is essentially complete but don’t be surprised if one should hang around into the winter months. And, since Ruby-throats live on average 3-5 years, it is not uncommon to have them return to the same feeder the next year.

Their brilliant colors, small size, fearless personalities and flying characteristics have won admiration from humans. These birds do not harm crops or livestock, make noise, foul cars or buildings with droppings, or bite when handled, making them the most benign of all birds. Enjoy these flying jewels in your gardens while they are here.