It’s getting to be that time of year when the hummingbirds are fattening up for their long journeys south. Most will double their body weight, which during the summer is anywhere from 3-6 grams. (For reference, a penny weighs 2.5 grams) They feed on flower nectar (which they lap up with their long tongues) and small insects, feeding every 12-15 minutes.
In the last two weeks my two feeders have been buzzing with activity, the males crazily guarding their nectar source that never runs out. I am religious about keeping the feeders cleaned and full because I love watching the birds so much. Such joy they bring to my life! I always feel a tremendous loss when they depart each fall, an emptiness that takes weeks to adjust to.
In the next few weeks the males will disappear from the feeders, heading south a few weeks before the females. Their migration in my opinion is one of the most amazing things in the entire animal kingdom. Long ago people thought they must ride on the backs of Canada geese or other migrating birds, for surely, how could such a tiny bird complete such a harrowing flight? But of course this, like many “facts” related to animals, is just a myth.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate to Central America each fall, all by themselves.
Many do this by flying non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico, a journey of 525 miles.
Imagine! Such a tiny bird flying that far, that long, not stopping! It takes them on average, 20 HOURS to do this! Imagine flying 20 hours non-stop. Then, when they make it through that challenge, they have another 1600 miles yet to go! Think of the obstacles this bird must overcome… severe weather, storms, wind, navigating, starvation, finding food, cold temperatures, predators… no wonder why most ruby-throated hummingbirds don’t live through their first year. The average lifespan of the tiny bird is only 3 years.
When spring comes again, the birds change direction and head north, reversing their trips. What an amazing bird!