Gems on Wings
Create your own backyard habitat to entice these energetic little birds.
Hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors, especially red, so try these flowering plants: bee balm, columbine, cardinal flower and trumpet vine. Other good choices include coral bells, lilac, gladiolus, Mexican sunflower, delphinium and foxglove.
For best results, choose flowers that will bloom in succession throughout the growing season.
Specially designed artificial feeders filled with a sugar solution also draw in hummingbirds. Keep in mind that hummers, especially the males, are territorial and aggressive. If you plan on hanging more than one feeder, place them around the yard so that the birds at one feeder cannot see birds at the other. Also, keep your hummingbirds happy and healthy. Take down the feeder and scrub it thoroughly with hot water at least twice a week or more if hung in a sunny location.
Recipe for sugar solution
- Four parts water to one part table sugar.
- Boil mixture for two to three minutes
- Cool before filling the feeder
It’s not necessary to add red food coloring, but if you do, add just a little.
For those who enjoy watching Ohio’s wildlife, one of the most anticipated signs of spring is the return of the ruby-throated hummingbird. Its tiny size, jewel-toned plumage, whirring wings and acrobatic nature have endeared this unique bird to many people across the Buckeye State.
The ruby throat is the state’s most common hummingbird and the only of its kind to nest in Ohio or anywhere east of the Mississippi River. Its body length and wingspan are about equal in size, ranging from 3.5 to 4 inches. On average, it weighs less than an ounce. Adult males flash red throat feathers and the females white. Females also display white tips on their tail feathers and are larger than the males. In both genders, the overall plumage is an iridescent green.
If you can picture half an English walnut shell then you know the size of a hummingbird’s nest! Within that compact cup, the female typically lays two eggs, each the size of a pea. Her young hatch in about two weeks and leave the nest around three weeks. During the breeding season, she will raise two and sometimes three broods without any help from the male.
The sound most often associated with hummingbirds is, of course, the distinctive hum created by their swiftly moving wings. Although they lack a true song, if you listen closely you might hear them make a series of trills and chirps.
With an ability to fly forward, backward and shift sideways - as well as hover in flight - these tiny helicopters of the animal kingdom are a natural wonder to behold. And don’t let their diminutive size fool you, they are very hardy birds. After leaving their wintering grounds in Central America, ruby throats fly 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico and up through Texas before arriving in Ohio each spring.
The males arrive first in late April and the females soon follow, with peak migration occurring in mid-May - just as the state’s spring wildflowers are really putting on a show. The fact that ruby throats arrive during the pageantry of spring blooms is no coincidence. Like bees, hummingbirds feed primarily on nectar. Insects and spiders also are a food source, especially when there are young ones to feed.
While 99 percent of the “hummers” you see in Ohio are ruby throats, it doesn’t mean other species aren’t crossing over the state line. The copper-colored rufous hummingbird, a native of the northwestern U.S., has been sighted in Ohio more than 20 times since 1985.
If you are looking to add a dash of fun and excitement to your backyard bird watching experience this summer, then consider creating a hummingbird haven for Ohio’s very own ruby throated gems on wings!
- Laura Jones, ODNR Office of Communications
Hummingbird Fun Facts
- They are the smallest birds in the world - the smallest of which is the bumblebee hummingbird.
- They can fly as fast as 60 miles per hour.
- They can beat their wings from 60 to 200 times per second!
- Because they fly so much, they have very weak feet that are just strong enough for perching.
- Their hearts beat 600 times per minute compared to 72 times per minute for humans.
- Did you know … It’s a misconception that hummingbirds use their long bills as a straw to suck up nectar? In reality, they lap up nectar and sugar solutions with their tongues.