Top News

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds in Nova Scotia

A colourful male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird flies from Mexico to Nova Scotia during mid-May and then returns to Mexico in early September.
A colourful male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird flies from Mexico to Nova Scotia during mid-May and then returns to Mexico in early September. - Contributed

Wentworth News with Hope Bridgewater

On this early September morn,

Even the front yard looks forlorn,

The humming birds have gone away,

I only wish that they could stay,

These hummingbirds will fly so far,

So many miles it seems bizarre,

These tiny birds can go so far.

They fear the cold of Scotia’s snow,

It is a mystery how they know,

The need for warmth so far away,

I understand, but wish they’d stay.

. I miss their beauty and how fast they sped,

With colours violet, green, white, black, and red;

I miss their humming, hovering flight,

From sunlit dawn to darkening night,

May they be safe and on their guard,

So they’ll be back in this same yard.

In mid-May a lone male hummingbird with a ruby-throat came to to my front yard, as he or another have done this for several years. After he has established his territory, a female with a white throat appears and they have a family. Hummingbirds are such a wonder in nature that researchers have studied them carefully in a scientific method as I found out when doing research.

The female builds a nest and cares for the young. The nest is about 10 to 40 feet above the ground, usually contains bud scales, lichen, spiders’ silk, plant or thistle down, and animal hair. The female lays one to three white eggs and produces one to two broods each summer The chickens are brooded 12 to 14 days, and when they are 18 to 22 days old, they leave the nest and make their first flight. The female usually hovers as she feeds the young from her long slender bill by regurgitation one to three times every hour.

The male guards the territory from other birds, even hummingbirds, and other predatory intruders, small as he is (three to five inches long and weighing about 0.12 ounces). The female, usually larger than the male, also helps chase away intruders.

Hummingbirds heart rates are up to 1260 beats each minute and breathing rates of about 250 breaths per minute. Muscles make up 25 to 30 per cent of their body weight. Their wings connect to the body only from the shoulder joint meaning they can fly both backwards and forwards and to hover in mid-air and, during hovering their wings beat up to 80 times per second. With their long slender bills, they feed on nectar from flowers and flowering trees and on small insects, and spiders. They also feed from nectar put out by humans and made from one cup of sugar with four cups of boiling water when cooled down. They catch insects on the wing or from flowers, leaves, bark, and spiders' webs.

What amazes me in their long flights consisting of thousands of miles from Mexico to Wentworth at the start of summer and back again at the beginning of autumn. They do this by doubling their fat mass in preparation for their long flights and somehow, they know when the time has come to do this. They then fly miles without nourishment except for access to the fat mass in their own bodies!

A few extra discoveries about Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds: average flight speed is 25 to 30 miles per hour; hummingbirds need to eat seven or more times per hour; when sleeping, hummingbirds go into torpor with a heart rate of only 50 or fewer beats per minute; they can barely walk and shuffle as they moves along a branch; these hummingbirds winter in Mexico and spends summers breeding in Eastern Nova Scotia and Canada.; females may live seven or more years and males rarely live past five years; the sound of humming is done as they fly.

I was so happy to see the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds arrive for the summer and watched them constantly at the feeders. During the summer, they became companions and friends, and then when autumn came they migrated back to Mexico. I was sad to see them go and pray they will be back next summer.

Recent Stories