After the flurry of spring arrivals it may seem that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have disappeared from our flowers and feeders and the wild. This is mostly an illusion. Females, who most years out number males, spend the summer doing all the parental duties (males leave after the fun part). Moms do all that is necessary to prepare offspring to fly solo, non-stop back to Central America: Laying and incubating typically 2 eggs, brooding and foraging for insects to mix with nectar in a porridge to feed the chicks, and protecting the nest and nestlings from predators. All of which keeps them in or near the nest which is the size of a large thimble and exceptionally well camouflaged in leafy tree canopy.
When August arrives, it is time for the females and immatures to prepare their bodies for the fall migration. They will double their body weight from 3 grams to a whopping 6 grams. Nectar, natural and person-made, is the primary source of calories, but not the only. Insects, e.g., spiders from their cases, are important for fats, amino acids, and proteins for muscle recovery and build.
The females and immatures come out of the trees and forage non-stop. They need to eat every 10-15 minutes (and relieve themselves just as often).
This, and their constant aerial fighting, makes it seem that they are everywhere. That they have ‘reappeared’.
Hummingbirds have a number of adaptations for heat, they are for the most part tropical birds, but the extremes we have been having the last few years are taxing even their adaptations. We can help by planting shade tolerant attractant flowers, keeping feeders clean and full of fresh artificial-coloring-free ‘nectar’, and having water features (formerly known as bird baths). If you have a mister sprinkler leave it on some during the day. Hummingbirds are like little kids and love to ‘run through the sprinkler’.
The fighting is seldom mortal and often just puffing up feathers, more wing noise and louder vocal calls.
Quickly returning to growing their ‘nectar belly’ for a September departure date for the tropics.