2016-08-25 / Nature

The Story of the Hummingbird

By Jack Kelly


A juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird drinks at a feeding station. This species is the only breeding hummingbird in the eastern United States, but occasional migrants may appear in the fall. (Photo by Jack Kelly) A juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird drinks at a feeding station. This species is the only breeding hummingbird in the eastern United States, but occasional migrants may appear in the fall. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Hummingbirds are the smallest of birds, with the smallest of eggs. They are the only birds capable of flying backwards, and their wings beat faster than any other bird at up to 30 beats per second!

Hummingbirds forage on flower nectar, using their long grooved tongues to carry the fluid straight to the throat. As a hummingbird moves from flower to flower, it collects pollen on its head and helps to cross-pollinate flowers in a garden or field. Hummingbirds also feed on insects, some observed from a perch and captured on the wing, while others may be hover-gleaned from vegetation.

The primary hummingbird species in the Newport County area is the ruby-throated hummingbird, which migrates to our region from South America. This species, which breeds as far north as Canada, migrates across the Gulf of Mexico.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are attracted to red flowers that are tubular in nature; manufactured feeders in this shape will readily attract the birds. Nectar can be purchased pre-made or in concentrate. Some birders prefer to make their own, combining one part finely granulized sugar and three parts water. It is important to boil the mixture for a couple of minutes to take out impurities. Feeders should be placed near flowers, trees, and shrubs out of direct sunlight.

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