This past week in the USA has been rather distressing as far as health and politics are concerned. The COVID epidemic is wreaking havoc and then humans wrought havoc during a procedure intended to be part of a peaceful transition of governmental power. So we can all use a bit of distraction to remind us there is also still beauty in the world and I’ll end my last trio of posts with one more view of hummingbirds – this time featuring the one species that visits my home every year, the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris).
Fortunately, my yard now has several types of plants that offer the hummers natural nectars to complement their primarily insectivorous diet.
The rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) flowers are a popular feeding site.
They are also fond of the blue-black sage (Salvia guaranitica). My original plants were a gift from birding friend, Gail; now they are growing in four areas of the yard. Sometimes a hummer doesn’t want to hover but uses a nearby prop to offer some less strenuous feeding. And then the bird can close its eyes to thoroughly enjoy the sweet sap.
Hot lips sage shrubs (Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips‘), which I got at a garden center, have proved to be popular feeding sites. This is quite a hardy plant.
The hummers also like going to the lantanas (Lantana) and the yellow passionflower (Passiflora lutea), which kindly came to my yard on its own.
Another popular plant is the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii). Many recommend against planting this bloomer because it can be invasive. However, some garden centers have developed varieties that scarcely seed and that must be what I luckily got as it has never appeared anywhere else in the yard in more than a decade.
It also attracts butterflies, bees, syrphid flies and hummingbird moths, so I’m quite happy with my butterfly bush.
The ruby-throats also do like their nectar, however. After visiting various flowers, they often take a seat near or on the nectar feeder so they can sip at their leisure.
They will also do their best to keep other hummers away from the nectar feeder — even when I have as many as three or four feeders available.
They keep an eye out for intruders.
When a rival appears, it can lead to confrontations. Mostly these involve aggressive displays and chasing one another; only very rarely have I seen them actually physically engage.
This past summer, a few laid-back moments occurred when they tolerated one another.
It’s not only the males who are aggressive; female hummers can also be quite protective of feeding grounds. This past year, it seemed that I had mostly males visiting. While a female hummer can have one or two red spots under her chin, usually that is the beginning of a young male developing his ruby-throat.
It can be fun to watch as more spots appear with passing days.
Eventually, the males get their fully developed gorget, which can be quite stunning.
The red hue is very dependent on how the light hits their feathers. In some cases, the red feathers almost look black.
The hummers take care to groom their feathers.
They take advantage of the rain to have a shower.
There are times when they look a bit scruffy, however. That is when they molt. This process of replacing old feathers with new ones usually takes place on their wintering grounds. This past summer, the hummers seemed to have lingered longer than usual and began molting before their trips further south.
White feathers appear more and more as molting proceeds. And feathers come loose before falling away.
They can look a bit scruffy during this time.
Eventually, they get back to their pretty selves. It always stays fun to watch them flying — at least for me. That is when you can see their tiny feet better.
And you get an idea of how rapidly their small wings move as they hover and soar.
They can beat their wings up to 70 times per second!
It doesn’t seem to me that I’ll ever tire of watching these tiny fliers; they always are entertaining. I hope seeing some photos of them in action have provided you with a brief respite from the worries of the world, too.
Wow – I don’t think anyone has read one of my blogs so quickly after it was published before. Glad you liked it!
What better diversion than hummingbirds! I like how well you capture their flight, especially in the flight sequence. They move so fast!
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Great photos with all the details! Great story as well!
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Thanks, Tom! Those of us who are engaged with nature are privileged to have something uplifting to distract from distress…..
Thanks, Lucretia. They really are very fast – isn’t nature wondrous with all the marvelous creatures with their particular unique abilities?