ruby-throated hummingbird

Hummingbirds. Here We Go!

Male Ruby-throated

Female Ruby-throated

Here we are in mid-July and the time everyone anticipates. Ruby-throated hummingbirds will soon ramp up their interest in feeders and the action will be fast and furious through the end of September.

For many of you the spring and early summer months produce little if any activity at your feeders. Why? Let’s not forget Ruby-throated hummingbirds DO NOT make the long journey here from Central and South America for the sugar water. They DO NOT NEED the feeders but will take advantage of them when they are through with nesting and fattening up for migration is their foremost concern. Hummingbirds have been migrating here for thousands of years to breed and to take advantage of the abundance of insects, which is their primary food source. They would come here even if hummingbird feeders did not exist.

August through September is the peak time for us to see hummingbirds at feeders. Based on frequently asked questions at the store there's a lot of confusion surrounding Ruby-throated hummingbirds and the first few months they are here. It is true Ruby-throated hummingbirds begin migrating through and into TN as early as mid-March. At this time you may see some activity at a feeder as migrants move through, feed, and then keep moving. Or an early arrival summer resident may visit a feeder often for the first few days as it settles in after its long journey.

Although all summer resident hummingbirds of Tennessee have arrived by mid-May, most people will see very little of them and activity at feeders will be minimal and infrequent until at least mid-July when there is a sudden surge in activity.

It is thought by many the reason for this sudden surge is they have just "come back" from where they've been. Actually, it is that the summer resident hummingbirds have concluded raising one to three broods of offspring and are ready to begin taking advantage of nectar in feeders.

Ruby-throated hummers usually raise two chicks at a time so when the nesting phase concludes you may be seeing at least 6 young hummers coming to feeders.

Since hummingbirds feed on small insects an alternative way of feeding them is available.Try placing some fruit in a mesh sack and hang it near your hummingbird feeder.The fruit will draw fruit flies which the hummingbirds will readily devour.It is quite interesting to see a hummingbird dart its specialized tongue out to snag the flies. And it is their long tongue that laps up the nectar from feeders.

So, if you have been disappointed because you haven’t seen hummingbirds at your feeders that’s all about to change. Give your feeders a good cleaning and get some fresh nectar made (1 part sugar to 4 parts water). Remember, nectar is only good for about 3 days at a time in summer heat. Enjoy the action!

Spring Migration

Spring Migration is in full swing which means there will be a lot of interesting birds to see if you spend a little time looking around your yard, or at any of our wonderful parks and greenways. If you are going out for your morning, or afternoon walk don’t forget your binoculars because the neo-tropical migrants are passing through, or arriving in middle Tennessee every day on the way to their summer breeding areas. Warblers, Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Tanagers, Swallows, Hummingbirds, and many other species are there for the viewing if you try. Early in the morning, between 6 am and 10 am are best to see some of these birds because many of them migrate at night then settle down in the mornings to feed and rest.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Male Indigo Bunting

Male Indigo Bunting

The first Ruby-throated hummingbirds to arrive or pass through TN have already been sighted. Usually one, maybe two hummingbird feeders at this time of year is enough. Don’t bother filling your feeder to full capacity at this time as the feeders are of little interest to them this early.

In the coming weeks at your feeders expect to see the always popular Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings. Of course American Goldfinches are here in abundance year round but are now putting on their bright yellow spring plumage.

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak

RB Grosbeak males are quite handsome with their black and white plumage and v-shaped splash of red on the chest, while females are brown and white with heavy streaking. Both have the distinguishable heavy beak. These birds may be seen in good numbers at your feeders. In years past I’ve seen as many as a dozen at a time, or some years just a few. They are fond of several types of seeds and feeders. Sunflower and Safflower are the more preferred seeds, while platform, hopper, and tube type feeders all work well. Let us know when you see one.

Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Interestingly there are still good numbers of our winter visitors like Purple finch, Pine Siskin, and even Red-breasted Nuthatches in the area.

Reports of Bluebirds with completed nests and with eggs are sprinkling in. It’s still relatively early and plenty of time to attract Bluebirds to a nest box. In years past I would not see a first Bluebird nest until late April.

For daily bird sightings reports of migrating birds you may want to subscribe to TN bird e-mail list, or visit Tennessee Birding on Facebook.

Spring birding class

There is still time to register for Richard Connors bird identification class at Radnor Lake this spring. The 5-week class runs Tuesday mornings from April 9th to May 7th, and includes classroom sessions and morning bird walks. Radnor is a premier location for spring migrants and those migrants are often heard more easily than seen, so this spring class will emphasize "birding by ear". We will work on bird identification by sound as well as by sight. The class is open to beginners, but some prior knowledge of our local birds will be helpful. There is a fee for the 5 week class with part of the proceeds going to Friends of Radnor Lake.

For more information see this web page:

http://www.pbase.com/rconnorsnaturephoto/spring_bird_class_2019

To register for the class contact Richard at rconnorsphoto@aol.com or 615 832-0521.

Differences in Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

The differences in male, female, and juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are subtle but if you know what to look for you can identify between the three fairly easily. Keep in mind that from the beginning to the middle of the hummingbird season (mid April to mid July) you won’t be seeing any juvenile birds. After the young leave the nest in July they will be considered an adult bird but with juvenile plumage.

Adult male hummingbirds of course have the ruby throat but it is not always apparently red. In certain lighting or at certain angles it can appear black. Adult and juvenile females have a white throat that is sometimes marked with faint grey or buffy streaking. Juvenile males may also have a white throat like a female, but more often it is streaked to a greater or lesser degree with black or green.

Tails are also a good way to tell birds apart. Adult males have a more forked tail with pointed outer feathers that are solid black. Females and juvenile males have a blunt rounded tail that is mostly black with white tips to the outer feathers.

Both sexes, adult and juvenile can vary slightly in size and weight depending on the time of season however it is not uncommon for birds to almost double their weight in August and September in preparation of the fall migration.

Adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Notice the difference in the male and female tails. The male is forked where the female is blunt with white tipped feathers.

Adult female Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Notice the light spotted throat compared to the male on the right.

This adult female is showing off her more blunt tail with white tipped feathers. The male is more forked and lacks the white.

In some lights the throat of the adult male can appear black.

Juvenile male with his ruby throat beginning to come in.


Visit the Warner Park Nature Center Saturday August 25th for their Hummingbird Celebration.

Visit the Warner Park Nature Center Saturday August 25th for their Hummingbird Celebration.

Click here  for more info on the Warner Parks Nature Center's Hummingbird Celebration.

Click here for more info on the Warner Parks Nature Center's Hummingbird Celebration.

Celebrate Hummingbirds at the Warner Park Nature Center August 25th from 9:30 am to 2 pm.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are migrating South. Celebrate our smallest bird with local nurseries and other groups dedicated to conserving hummingbirds. Nashville Natives, Kona Ice, The Wood Thrush Shop and the Bellevue Branch of the Nashville Public Library will also join us to celebrate. All ages are welcome, and no registration is required.