Wildlife Wednesday 04/17/2024

Happy #WildlifeWednesday! They’re on their way! A truly delightful harbinger of spring is the dazzling appearance of hummingbirds as they return from their wintering grounds in Central America. 

The most common species of hummingbird in Ohio is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which is the only hummingbird that breeds in the eastern part of the United States. With their brilliant iridescent red throats and sparkling emerald backs and crowns, the males are the first to arrive, usually 1-2 weeks ahead of the females, who lack the ruby throat and are more muted in plumage color. 

The males arrive earlier in order to scout for food and set up territories. Their diet consists primarily of nectar and insects. They prefer to drink from red and orange tubular flowers, using their long bills and tongues to access the center of the bloom while hovering in the air, and they will also frequent backyard feeders. Insects may be caught while on the wing, or plucked from foliage and spider webs.

Ruby-throats are precision flyers and able to hover and fly backwards and upside-down. Between the males aggressively defending their favorite feeding locales with swift aerodynamic chases and dramatically swooping and diving while performing elaborate courtship displays, this species is very captivating and entertaining for human observers.

To attract these charismatic birds to your yard, plant flowers such as bee balm, cardinal flower, fire pink, royal catchfly, and yellow and spotted jewelweed. You can also provide food in the way of a hummingbird feeder. The liquid mixture in the feeder should be ¼ cup of sugar to 1 cup of water and there is no need to add red food coloring or dyes. To keep your avian visitors healthy, thoroughly clean the feeder the recommended every 2-3 days or when the water gets cloudy, as harmful bacteria and mold can accumulate and sugar can ferment and become toxic. And while the native Ruby-throat is by far the most numerous hummingbird species in Ohio, you might be lucky enough to glimpse a rarity!

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