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Hummingbird Hustle

Jun 02, 2019

A “glittering fragment of the rainbow” is how an early American naturalist described the hummingbird.  He must have been impressed with its shimmering green plumage and crimson throat feathers.

Also impressive are the size and speed of hummingbirds.  Ruby-throated hummingbirds are by far our smallest bird.  They are a mere three inches long and weigh as little as one dime.  Missouri has some migrant hummingbirds but the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird that breeds here.

Hummingbirds use their small size and hovering flight to suck nectar from flowers.  They can fly backwards, sideways and, in battles with other hummingbirds, even upside down.  Their tiny wings beat more than 50 times per second.  During mating displays, wing beats can rise up to 200 beats per second!

Hummingbirds migrate to the Midwest in April and can be with us until October.

You can attract them to your backyard by using special feeders and planting their favorite red or orange tubular flowers.

The Flight of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

  • Hummingbirds are important pollinators for many species of plants that require a long-billed pollinator. 
  • Because of their small size, hummingbirds can end up providing food for many predators that eat insects, including spiders, praying mantises, birds and frogs.
  • Early-spring arrivals eat sap oozing from sapsucker-drilled holes and the insects nearby. They soon switch to eating nectar from many different kinds of flowers. 
  • During nesting, insects, a rich source of protein, are fed to the growing young. Sometimes these insects are stolen from spider webs.
  • Though most often seen around nectar feeders and in parks and gardens, hummingbirds also nest in forests and forest edges, near streams and in other wooded places.

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