Tag Archives: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Four for Spring

Carolina Chickadee with moss for nesting material just before entering a bird house

Nesting is in Full Swing

There’s a lot of nesting going on already.  We count at least 4 active nests in our yard, including Carolina Chickadee, Brown Thrasher, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren and perhaps a Song Sparrow.  Cardinals are eyeing nesting locations and there will probably be more soon.

Watch for Hummingbirds

A friend, who has much better eyesight than either of us, swears he saw a hummingbird in our yard yesterday.  He probably did.  The Native Honeysuckle is starting to bloom and that’s always been our indication that hummers are here, or will be shortly.

Most likely it will be a Ruby-throated Hummingbird that you see.  While they are the only hummingbird that nests in Georgia, 10 other species are seen in this state.  Time to plant hummingbird-friendly flowers and hang your feeders.

Trees Atlanta Native Wildflower and Vine Sale

Trees Atlanta is having their 5th annual Native Wildflower and Plant Sale on Saturday, April 1st at the Freedom Farmer’s Market at the Carter Center.  They will be selling native perennials and vines that are tree-friendly (it is a Trees Atlanta sale after all).

This is a chance to support Trees Atlanta and get great plants that are grown by reputable growers.  Their plant list for the sale has many of the plants that we have on our list of Perennials for Your Yard.  All good things for trees and for wildlife.

Create a Home for Native Bees

We follow an excellent blog called Using Georgia Native Plants.  In their post of March 12, they wrote about a new book titled  Bees – An Identification and Native Plant Foraging Guide  by Heather Holm.  We couldn’t do without our own copy, and it is a beautiful book.

If you read the blog post you’ll see that the author calls attention to a section in the book describing the value of trimming stems from last-year’s plants (perennials) to a length of about 15 inches.  The new growth will soon overtake the stems to hide them, but in the meantime this creates a home for tiny native bees that are so important as pollinators.  They will nest this spring and summer, overwinter in this safe haven and then emerge the following spring.

You can see the before and after efforts of our trimming below.

 

Monthly Journal – September, 2016

We photographed several butterflies this past month and had fun trying to identify them all.  It’s difficult for us to tell the difference between the Cloudless and the Clouded Sulphur butterflies, so we just labeled them Sulphur.  The same is true with the Skipper; there are many of them and while we think this is a Southern Skipper, we’re just not entirely sure.  We were also very excited to see the first Monarch of the season!  Hopefully there will be more.

Heading South

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

juvenile male Ruby-throated Hummingbird at a feeder in Peachtree Park on September 21, 2016

Do the hummers that you are seeing now seem to be a bit more skittish than the ones that you’ve been seeing all summer?  Maybe it’s because the migrants are here, and they aren’t as familiar with their surroundings as the locals.  [1]

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

adult male Ruby-throat 9/21/16

Hummingbirds overwinter in Central and South America. [2]  Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return to most parts of Georgia in March (in Atlanta, around March 15 – April 1) [2] and usually stay with us until the first week in October. [10]  So it’s a great time to enjoy the last days of the locals before they head south, as well migrants passing through from points north.

Black-chinned Hummingbird - Archilochus alexandri Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin TX - April 7, 2015

Black-chinned Hummingbird – Archilochus alexandri
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin TX

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird known to nest to Georgia. [4]  In fact, it is the only hummingbird known to breed east of the Mississippi River. [11]  Our female Ruby- throated hummers produce up to two broods per year.  Nests are typically built on a small branch, sometimes rebuilding the nest from the previous year. [4]

However, Ruby-throats are not the only hummingbirds in Georgia.  There are 10 others that spend time here in the summer: Black-chinned, Rufous, Calliope, Magnificent, Allen’s, Anna’s, Broad-billed, Green Violet-ear, Green-breasted Mango and Broad-tailed hummingbird. [4]

Anna's Hummingbird - Calypte anna Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ - March 2010

Anna’s Hummingbird – Calypte anna
Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ

Some hummingbirds do overwinter in Georgia [6] and there are periodic sightings in Atlanta. So, it’s a good idea to keep one feeder up in the winter.  Even better, make sure you have pollinator-friendly plants blooming year-round. Witch Hazel, Lenten Roses, and winter bulbs such as Crocus are some examples.

Despite what you may have heard, you cannot keep hummingbirds from migrating by leaving feeders up during the fall and winter seasons.  Hummingbirds migrate in response to a decline in day length, not food availability. [5]

We’ve included some links below with additional information on migration, feeding, and overwintering.  The first link from Lerner.org will direct you to a dynamic hummingbird migration map and the second link from the University of Georgia has good information on feeding.  Also, If you haven’t visited the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s Hummingbird Trail, you should consider a drive over to Athens.

Hummmmm.  Zoom!  Zip!    We’re outta here.

References and Additional Information

[1]  Learner.org – Journey North: Hummingbird: Pushing Southward
[2]  UGA: Make Your Backyard a Favorite for Hummingbirds
[3]  GA Department of Agriculture: – Plant a Garden for Hummingbirds
[4]  Georgia DNR: Hummingbirds in Your Backyard – Interesting Facts
[5]  Georgia DNR: Hummingbirds in Your Backyard – Feeding Hummingbirds
[6]  Georgia DNR: Out My Backdoor – Creating Hummingbird Havens
[7]  UGA: Creating Native Plant Hummingbird Habitat in Georgia
[9]  Georgia DNR: Georgia’s Wintering Hummingbirds
[9]  UGA: Extension: Attracting Birds to Your Backyard
[10]  The State Botanical garden of Georgia: Hummingbird Trail
[11]  The Breeding Bird Atlas of Georgia – UGA Press: Schneider, Beaton, Keyes and Klaus, Eds.

Monthly Journal – July, 2016

July has been full of birds. We think our yard has never been as full of birds as this past month.  A cake of suet lasts about a day and a half and we’re filling large feeders every 4 days. Catbirds are everywhere, and we are getting up at sunrise to beat them and the robins to our ripening figs.

Birds are still fledging, and some bird houses up and down the street and on the Nature Trail are hosting their third brood of this season.  Two of the photos below, shot through our window, are of a baby catbird who wasn’t quite quite ready to fly and wound up in boxwood for a few hours.  His parents continued to feed him and eventually he got his wings and left.

What’s missing are butterflies and dragonflies.  They were everywhere this time last year and this year we are seeing very few.  Maybe the birds are eating the larvae.  We are hoping that mosquito spraying is not involved in their disappearance.

The last photo is of the newly resurfaced Nature Trail.  If you are in the neighborhood, you should go see it.

Even More Hummer Activity Now

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Phlox

In our April 23 blog we talked about the first of the season hummingbirds.  Then it seemed as if hummingbird activity dwindled with not many sightings until about a week or so ago. We wondered why.

Fortunately someone posed exactly this question about the drop in hummingbird activity in June followed be a late July spike on GABO, the forum for Georgia Birders Online.  The answers were great and helped us understand.  We thought you might like to know too.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched on fig limb

During the early spring the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return from their southern overwintering locations.  They come in pairs, both males and females.  But beginning in June, you don’t see many females – they are nesting.  Another reason that you are less likely to see females at feeders and flowers, as suggested by one of the GABO contributors, is because the females are in search of protein to feed their young.  The hummer perched on the fig limb has her tongue out and we speculate that it maybe to round up ants.

Then, at the end of June and into July the relative dearth of hummers is replaced with an abundance as the newly fledged birds begin joining their parents in search of food.

Who’s That Humming?

Native Columbine

Canadian Columbine

Local wisdom says when the Canadian Columbine (a native) booms the hummers are here.  It’s certainly true this year.  We have already been buzzed by a few, but no visuals yet.    Atlanta Audubon’s check list for Atlanta lists four Hummingbirds: Ruby-throated, Rufous, Black-chinned and Calliope.  Only the Ruby-throated is common here and only in the Spring, Summer and Fall; the rest are rare.  Enjoy them while they’re here, because in the fall they’ll be headed back on the long flight across the Gulf of Mexico  to Central America.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding on Agastache

Right now they are building nests and gathering fuel to recharge after their long flight.  Nectar from flowers and flowering trees, as well as small insects and spiders are the main food source.  Young birds are fed insects for protein since nectar is an insufficient source of protein for the growing birds.

They prefer flowers that are red or orange.  This is where, with a little planning,  you can have something blooming that will provide them with food throughout their stay.

If you decide to feed them with a sugar solution, do not color the water since the dyes are bad for the hummers.  Feeders should be checked frequently in warm weather, and daily if it’s really hot since the sugar water will ferment and make them sick.

We received this from Audubon two days ago: “Download Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home app and join a network of citizen scientists working to help hummingbirds now and ensure them a bright future.”  There’s a link at the top of the page to download the app.