Currently our backyards are abuzz with hummingbirds. The birds we are now seeing are a combination of ruby-throated hummingbirds that have already begun their migration and local birds that are preparing to embark on their fall migration.
The first birds to leave are the adult males. Some males that that breed north of Georgia actually begin flying south during the first couple of weeks in July. In comparison, males that spent the spring and summer in Georgia often do not commence their migration until late July or early August. However, it is still possible to see a few males at our feeders right now.
Adult females migrate next. The vast majority of the birds that are now gorging themselves on the nectar provided by our flowers such as scarlet sage and feeders are a combination of adult females, immature females, and immature males. As I have discussed in former blogs (check the archive), it is easy to tell the immature males from the females. However, it is often next to impossible to distinguish an adult female from a female hatched this year from afar. In fact, the only sure way to do this is capture them and closely examine their bills. However, in some cases, at this time of the year adult females are often larger than immature females.
While the migration of the adult females is already underway, some will be feeding in our yards for a few more weeks.
The last to leave are immature hummers. They will be devouring as much nectar as they can consume for a few more weeks. Ideally, an immature that weighed only about three grams a few weeks ago will try to store enough fuel (fat) to bring its weight up to around five grams before leaving.
My wife and I have enjoyed feeding more hummingbirds this year than ever before. We have been feeding them around twenty cups of nectar a day for weeks. In addition, we have thoroughly enjoyed watching the birds visiting scarlet sage, zinnias, Turk’s cap, trumpet creeper, and a host of other plants. We have also seen the birds apparently gleaning tiny insects and spiders from foliage and flowers that do not produce an abundance of nectar. We realize the protein these small animals provide is an essential part of the hummingbird’s diet.
Much to our chagrin hummingbird numbers have dropped off in recent days. We know that they have to leave, but that we also realize we will miss them. As such, even though we are still hosting lots of hummingbirds, we are already looking forward to their return next spring.
If you are an avid fan of rubythroats, I am sure you understand why we feel this way.