Hummingbirds are exclusively an American Family. Their range includes South America, Central America and North America. The largest concentration can be found in Central and South America. The number of species of hummingbirds is generally placed in the range of 320 to 330, though the exact number will never be settled to everyone’s satisfaction, ornithologically speaking, that is. Of this number, North America has 16 successful breeders: The Ruby-Throated, Black-Chinned, Rufous, Allen’s, Broadtailed, Calliope, Anna’s, Costa’s, Broad-Billed, White-Eared, Blue-Throated, Violet-Crowned, Magnificent, Buff-Bellied, Beryliline, and Lucifers. Only the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird breeds east of the Mississippi River.
For no other reason than we are located in Michigan, The Ruby-Throated, our only hummingbird, will be the first hummingbird upon which we will concentrate.
If you could stand in the middle of the U.S. and look east, that’s about their territory, from top to bottom.
Here are some fun facts:
- The Ruby-Throated are about 3 1/4″ long.
- Weigh about 3 grams (.11 ounce). When it bulks up for travel, it can weigh as much as 4 to 5 grams. By comparison, a nickle weighs in at 4 grams.
- Its wings beat from 75 to 200 times per second.
- They can fly forwards, backwards, upside down, and hover in place.
- They use their tiny feet mostly for perching, rarely to walk or hop.
- Nest is walnut size. The female builds the nest, binding the different materials she finds by using strands of spiderweb. She then coats the the outside with bits of lichen or bark to camouflage the nest. Each egg is 1/2″ long. She will incubate the clutch of two eggs for 12 to 14 days. They will fledge when they are about three weeks old. She may use the same nest the next year or build a new one over the old. Once the young birds are on their own, there is no further bond between the female and young birds. They begin to raise their own families when they are 1 to 2 years old.
- This hummingbird eats an average of 30% of its weight each day.
- Ruby-Throats get carbohydrates from the sucrose in the nectar and protein from the tiny insects they pick from spiderwebs or snatch out of the air.
Analysis of natural nectar sources preferred by hummingbirds show most of them contain 20 to 25 percent sucrose. To make a solution to mimic nectar concentration found in flowers, combine four parts water to one part white granulated sugar. Do not use honey, brown sugar or artificial sweeteners.
If you would rather use natural nectar, plant flowers that hummingbirds prefer. You can also place your hummingbird feeders among your flowers, a natural way to supplement the nectar in flowers and attract more hummingbirds.
Gardening for Hummingbirds:
- Bee Balm (Monarda Didyma), Zone 4 to 9.
- Cardinal Flower (Lobelia Carinalis), Zone 3 to 9.
- Trumpet Vine (Campsis Radicans), Zone 4 to 9.
- Salvia (Salvia Splendens), All Zones.
- Fuchsia (Fushsia), Zone 8 to 10, grown as annuals elsewhere.
- Columbine (Aquilegia), Zone 3 to 9.
- Hollyhock (Alcea Rosea), Zone 3 to 9.
- Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana Alata), summer to first frost.
- Honeysuckle Trumpet (Lonicera Sempervirens), Zone 4 to 9.
- Red-Hot Poker (Kniphofia), Zone 5 to 9.
To truly enjoy this “Flying Jewels”, put a hummingbird feeder on your window and get a front-row seat!