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Ohio’s Smallest Bird.

August 2, 2011

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

This year has been a good one for hummingbird sightings when I’m out walking around.  Sure, you can see them at feeders, but I’ve just noticed more of them than I usually do out ‘in the wild’.  And since Hummingbirds and summer in Ohio go together, I thought this would be a good time to bring them up.

Here’s a picture of a friend’s feeder and the visitor it attracted.

The first time I noticed a hummingbird this year was in the thickets of some bushes in an urban park.  I was trying to get a picture of a rather elusive female American Redstart- her male companion was obliging and had posed for me out in the open, but not the female, who seemed rather shy.  I noticed what I thought at first was a large bug.  I looked closer and realized- it was a hummingbird!  It was rocking back and forth in a pendulum-like fashion in the air, right in front of another hummingbird perched in the bush watching the show.  Suddenly, the hummingbird display ended with a swell of bright red throat feathers- this was a male courting a female.  They flew off together.  Unfortunately, there were all sorts of branches and leaves in the way, so I did not get any usable photos.  It was a great show, though!

These birds were Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, Ohio’s smallest bird (under 3 inches long in some cases), and eastern North America’s only breeding hummingbird.  The list of interesting facts about these diminuitive birds is a long one.  For instance, their wings beat over 50 times per second; their hearts beat over 1,200 times a minute when flying.  Unlike humans, they can see in ultraviolet light, and they prefer red and orange flowers to sip nectar from.  Their metabolism is so high that when they sleep, they enter a state of torpor, somewhat akin to hibernation, so that their body uses much less fuel at night.  Their torpor can be so deep that touching them may not wake them- don’t do this, please!

Another interesting fact is that hummingbirds eat insects as well as flower nectar.  Gnats, aphids, mosquitoes and spiders, none are safe, and can be plucked out of midair or even from spiderwebs.

If you have a hummingbird feeder, you’ve probably seen some squabbles between these birds over this source of food.  Hummingbirds can and do fight.  This recent Birding in Maine blog post caught a dispute on film.

To me, the most amazing of all of the facts about the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is that it migrates thousands of miles to Central America in the autumn, and returns to North America in the spring.  This teeny bird merely a few inches long will fly all of that distance, and it will even fly over the Gulf of Mexico in one flight!  Fishermen have reported seeing them flying fairly low over the water during migration- it can take 20 hours to fly over this great body of water.  Imagine all of the fattening up they need to do to have the necessary fuel for this flight.

I’ve seen these birds here and there during the summer, sometimes buzzing by, other times flying from flower to flower to look for nectar.  Here are some photos I took of a female Ruby-Throat sipping from a Milkweed one morning next to a small lake.

For more facts about these birds, you may be interested in checking out the World of Hummingbirds website.  Nature’s wonders never cease to amaze me!

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2011 6:47 pm

    I absolutely LOVE this post!! Hummingbirds of every variety are so beautiful and delicate. These pictures are just beautiful… Thank you so much for sharing them!

  2. August 2, 2011 7:11 pm

    Really enjoyed your post on Hummingbirds.

  3. August 2, 2011 7:28 pm

    AWWWWESOME SHOTS! You rocked the lighting.

  4. August 2, 2011 9:00 pm

    Very beautiful pictures, I love the pictures of the hummingbird feeding at the milkweed.

    prairiebirder

  5. August 2, 2011 11:50 pm

    I sure enjoyed these photos! We don’t have the Ruby-throated ones here, but we have the Calypso. When I went out to move a sprinkler a few minutes ago, one was doing a dance in the water: we now have a clean hummingbird in residence.

  6. E.C. permalink
    August 3, 2011 7:05 am

    Breath-taking photos! Great post! :)

  7. L- Summer Gate permalink
    August 3, 2011 10:01 am

    The hummingbird pictures on the milkweed are just gorgeous :)

  8. August 3, 2011 11:23 am

    Thanks for the kind words everyone!

    Its very true, the lighting and the angle of the sun was good for these pictures- it was random luck that the hummingbird came by right at the time I was there.

    Fascinating birds!

  9. August 4, 2011 2:28 pm

    Phenomenal pictures. Can’t believe you captured them on your camera because they are always in motion. We used to see a lot of them when we lived in Texas, but I haven’t seen any since we moved to Virginia. When I was a youngster, my brother told me that hummingbirds were always in motion because they couldn’t land. When I asked him why they couldn’t land, he said it was because they didn’t have any feet. Since I had never seen a hummingbird at rest, I believed him. Brothers!

  10. August 5, 2011 12:57 am

    All of your bird photos are great, but the little hummingbirds melt my heart.

    After reading your blog entry earlier today, I put up the hummingbird feeder I had bought last week that I hadn’t got around to hanging.

    I’m hoping they discover it soon!

  11. August 5, 2011 7:43 am

    Great photos. My parents have hummingbird feeders around their home (in rural Michigan), and I love that while I’m doing the dishes, it’s not uncommon to be standing three feet from a one (separated by a window). Cool as it is to watch them fly, I especially enjoy when they relax enough to sit while they eat.

  12. August 5, 2011 10:13 am

    Thanks for your comments on my post ! – I love your photos of the Hummingbirds feeding from the flowers…. they are amazing birds to watch!

  13. August 5, 2011 11:43 am

    Great pictures…and I just made some more “nectar” for our hummingbirds before I sat down to “run my trap line”…I boil my water before putting in the sugar…I know some say you don’t have to…but that’s just me…so when your post came up…it reminded me to go (since the nectar is cooled) clean and fill my feeders…now, that’s done…and they are all around me…buzzing away…can’t hardly wait until I’m gone…

    I see the milkweed in your travels…I always kept some growing in our backyard in Minnesota along the fence line…so you see not only good for hummingbirds but also the only way Monarch butterflies can reproduce…two in one…way to go W.S….

    I remember when we went out to Rocky Mountain National Park…they had hummingbird feeders all over the camping area…they hung big jugs of hummingbird nectar all around their porch…they were “thick”…and hummed and buzzed all around us as we went into the office…just watching them was wonderful…no Ruby-Throated though…they are, as you said, only east of the Rockies…but the west has lots of other kinds…we in the eastern part of the country only have Ruby Throated…for the most part…we may see a stray here and there but not much…I know, too wordy…but love your blog…makes me think of so many things…thanks again…

  14. August 7, 2011 1:08 am

    Beautiful post and photos about hummingbirds. My porch is quite seculded and surrounded with towering plants called himilayan orchids, as tall as corn plants. The hummingbirds visit these plants while I’m having coffee there or reading on my porch. (Ontario, Canada)_

  15. sandy permalink
    August 7, 2011 2:06 pm

    These are beautiful! I didn’t know that hummingbirds went to milkweed.

  16. August 17, 2011 12:28 pm

    Love the hummingbird stories, everyone! Thanks for commenting :)

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