Ruby throat behavior

Joined: April 19th, 2015, 4:44 pm

May 11th, 2016, 3:03 pm #1

So I'm still trying to understand ruby throat migration and habits....
I sighted my first male at one of my feeders on 4/22. He was there in the morning around breakfast time, but then didn't return. Another male appeared on 4/26- same thing- drank for a minute at a feeder and then flew off not to be seen the rest of the day. This has been happening repeatedly, every day or so, and yesterday morning I saw my first female there in the morning, but she too flew off and I haven't seen her since. They aren't hanging around... I know I can't watch every second, but my feeders are easily seen from my windows and I am home during the day, so I keep a pretty good eye on them. Last year here in VA (and my previous experience out west) a couple of males and females came to the feeders in April/May and stayed in the vicinity, they would return repeatedly during the day to drink and I could follow them to where they were sitting in the trees in the backyard between feedings.

Does anyone know why I'm only seeing birds in the morning? Are they the same birds returning or are they different birds that are passing through? A couple of times I've seen one at lunch time, but that's it. This is only my 2nd hummingbird season here in VA so I'm still trying to understand their habits.

Also, Does anyone know any resources where I can find out specific hummingbird information for my specific area/town? I have been trying to find out if many even migrate through this area/my neighborhood. It's hard to find specific, in depth information...most of the info out there is for people who are beginners or who casually want to attract a hummingbird, as opposed to someone who is really trying to figure out their specific migration habits and behaviors. I found a website called eBird, but it records birdwatching of all kinds and there is hardly any hummingbird data for my county...I don't know if it's because there just aren't many hummers through here or if people just aren't watching for them.




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Joined: May 21st, 2013, 12:09 am

May 11th, 2016, 4:14 pm #2

Since you don't provide detail about the habitat surrounding your property it is hard to say much about breeding although your information from last year indicates they likely do breed in your general area.

You could just be seeing migrants since they are moving through now. You also could be seeing local breeders since breeding has started. Females don't usually nest right near an active feeder preferring to be away from persistent male attention. This means that their visits to feeders are sporadic at best because they don't stray too far from their nest. If you have streamside woods nearby it would be a place to look for nesting females.

Generally R-T hummingbirds are pretty common birds although they don't take well to urbanized settings during the breeding season. May can be a slow time at feeders and in gardens and one can't always tell whether there are any hummingbirds are around. You also may not be the only game in town, others may be getting visits who live near you.
Southern New Jersey
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Joined: April 19th, 2015, 4:44 pm

May 11th, 2016, 4:38 pm #3

So I'm still trying to understand ruby throat migration and habits....
I sighted my first male at one of my feeders on 4/22. He was there in the morning around breakfast time, but then didn't return. Another male appeared on 4/26- same thing- drank for a minute at a feeder and then flew off not to be seen the rest of the day. This has been happening repeatedly, every day or so, and yesterday morning I saw my first female there in the morning, but she too flew off and I haven't seen her since. They aren't hanging around... I know I can't watch every second, but my feeders are easily seen from my windows and I am home during the day, so I keep a pretty good eye on them. Last year here in VA (and my previous experience out west) a couple of males and females came to the feeders in April/May and stayed in the vicinity, they would return repeatedly during the day to drink and I could follow them to where they were sitting in the trees in the backyard between feedings.

Does anyone know why I'm only seeing birds in the morning? Are they the same birds returning or are they different birds that are passing through? A couple of times I've seen one at lunch time, but that's it. This is only my 2nd hummingbird season here in VA so I'm still trying to understand their habits.

Also, Does anyone know any resources where I can find out specific hummingbird information for my specific area/town? I have been trying to find out if many even migrate through this area/my neighborhood. It's hard to find specific, in depth information...most of the info out there is for people who are beginners or who casually want to attract a hummingbird, as opposed to someone who is really trying to figure out their specific migration habits and behaviors. I found a website called eBird, but it records birdwatching of all kinds and there is hardly any hummingbird data for my county...I don't know if it's because there just aren't many hummers through here or if people just aren't watching for them.



That's helpful, Ward.

I live in a master planned community in the bustling suburbs of northern Virginia. My backyard is pretty common for a suburb- not huge, some landscaping/gardening. We have a common area behind our house that buffers between us and our back neighbors, that is wooded.

That is why I was wondering if they are even very numerous in this area. There is no building/construction directly around us, but there is a lot of construction one neighborhood over and within a mile of us because this is a growing area. That's also why I have been searching for specifics to this area, and specifics on how they migrate. I kind of think there just aren't a ton coming through because of the demographics. (We had similar demographics out in AZ, but it didn't seem to be a factor out there- that is why I have so many questions, because there are so many more things to factor in with the R-T)

I was hoping that I would get a few to come through and stay, like they did last year, as opposed to just having those passing through, but maybe things will change as summer progresses.
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Joined: May 19th, 2013, 3:18 am

May 11th, 2016, 4:58 pm #4

So I'm still trying to understand ruby throat migration and habits....
I sighted my first male at one of my feeders on 4/22. He was there in the morning around breakfast time, but then didn't return. Another male appeared on 4/26- same thing- drank for a minute at a feeder and then flew off not to be seen the rest of the day. This has been happening repeatedly, every day or so, and yesterday morning I saw my first female there in the morning, but she too flew off and I haven't seen her since. They aren't hanging around... I know I can't watch every second, but my feeders are easily seen from my windows and I am home during the day, so I keep a pretty good eye on them. Last year here in VA (and my previous experience out west) a couple of males and females came to the feeders in April/May and stayed in the vicinity, they would return repeatedly during the day to drink and I could follow them to where they were sitting in the trees in the backyard between feedings.

Does anyone know why I'm only seeing birds in the morning? Are they the same birds returning or are they different birds that are passing through? A couple of times I've seen one at lunch time, but that's it. This is only my 2nd hummingbird season here in VA so I'm still trying to understand their habits.

Also, Does anyone know any resources where I can find out specific hummingbird information for my specific area/town? I have been trying to find out if many even migrate through this area/my neighborhood. It's hard to find specific, in depth information...most of the info out there is for people who are beginners or who casually want to attract a hummingbird, as opposed to someone who is really trying to figure out their specific migration habits and behaviors. I found a website called eBird, but it records birdwatching of all kinds and there is hardly any hummingbird data for my county...I don't know if it's because there just aren't many hummers through here or if people just aren't watching for them.



Mary Anne, I am often asked this question and some similar ones. Recently, I sent the following response to someone in Alexandria, Louisiana, which is about 200 miles west northwest of my New Orleans area home.

"Since I do not know exactly where you live, it is difficult to determine if there is a real problem. I really doubt it. If you understand the ecology of your area and the biology of the birds, you can better understand the ebb and flow of the birds you are [or are not] seeing.

If you live in an area where there are a lot of trees/woods, you may have a nesting population of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, but if your residence is in a more urban area, probably there won't be any nesting birds [my situation]. Therefore, I see only migrant Ruby-throateds and the seasonality is predictable - a smattering of individuals, mostly adult males from mid March until mid April - the last 2 weeks of April are busy with many migrating hummingbirds of both sexes. As we get into May, the numbers of Ruby-throateds I see drops to nearly ZERO and that will last until about mid July, when I begin seeing post-breeding dispersers and immature birds that are not tied to territories. By about mid August, I begin seeing more migrants - and migrants do not remain very long [perhaps only a day or two]. September is the month of migration for most of the entire Ruby-throated population of the entirety of North America and most of the population of the East Coast and the MidWest will migrate through Louisiana. Here in southeast Louisiana, nearly all of the local breeding population will have migrated southward [actually west to Texas and then south to Mexico and points beyond] by early September. Central Louisiana may be a week later in the timing. During this period, everyone can attract hummingbirds - and remember that in September, the entire population will have expanded twofold or more because there will be adults and young.

If you do have a nesting population on your property or within 1/4 mile, nesting will begin shortly after the first week of April [sooner for us in SELA]. Migrants will be passing, so you should be seeing some hummer activity, but when all have passed, the breeding population will seem to be scarce. Females will incubating, only leaving early in the AM, late morning, mid afternoon, and near dark - and only for a very short time. When the young hatch, the females will be eating a lot more insects [including gnats] to be able to supply the protein requirements of their rapidly growing young. If this is your case, you will see more activity by early June.

Another factor to understand is that Japanese Honeysuckle is currently in flower. It is very common and invasive - and migrating hummingbirds absolutely love the nectar! I do not know how much you have in flower at this time, but more is always better. I have quite a few flowering plants to attract hummingbirds."

As of last Sunday, I had no hummingbird sightings. A single adult female was seen 1 time on Monday morning. Yesterday morning I observed a single adult female and later in the evening, I saw a single adult female. It is impossible to know if I saw the same individual at both sightings, or if I saw 2 different birds i time each.

This morning, there were 3 adult females. Again, it is not possible to determine if today's birds were some of the 1 or 2 that I observed yesterday. I am very scrupulously entering the sightings into eBird. All of this week's birds were using floral resources exclusively. My across the street neighbor has a red-flowered Mimosa that just came into its full glory. Any hummers passing through will certainly stop there first and I may or may not see them, unless they pass while I am enjoying morning coffee on the front porch.

I hope my words will give you some insight into the comings and goings of your hummers. Patience is a virtue, one that I do not always exercise.
Nancy L Newfield
Casa Colibrí
Metairie, LA
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Joined: May 18th, 2013, 9:33 pm

May 11th, 2016, 5:08 pm #5

So I'm still trying to understand ruby throat migration and habits....
I sighted my first male at one of my feeders on 4/22. He was there in the morning around breakfast time, but then didn't return. Another male appeared on 4/26- same thing- drank for a minute at a feeder and then flew off not to be seen the rest of the day. This has been happening repeatedly, every day or so, and yesterday morning I saw my first female there in the morning, but she too flew off and I haven't seen her since. They aren't hanging around... I know I can't watch every second, but my feeders are easily seen from my windows and I am home during the day, so I keep a pretty good eye on them. Last year here in VA (and my previous experience out west) a couple of males and females came to the feeders in April/May and stayed in the vicinity, they would return repeatedly during the day to drink and I could follow them to where they were sitting in the trees in the backyard between feedings.

Does anyone know why I'm only seeing birds in the morning? Are they the same birds returning or are they different birds that are passing through? A couple of times I've seen one at lunch time, but that's it. This is only my 2nd hummingbird season here in VA so I'm still trying to understand their habits.

Also, Does anyone know any resources where I can find out specific hummingbird information for my specific area/town? I have been trying to find out if many even migrate through this area/my neighborhood. It's hard to find specific, in depth information...most of the info out there is for people who are beginners or who casually want to attract a hummingbird, as opposed to someone who is really trying to figure out their specific migration habits and behaviors. I found a website called eBird, but it records birdwatching of all kinds and there is hardly any hummingbird data for my county...I don't know if it's because there just aren't many hummers through here or if people just aren't watching for them.



Mary Anne

I saw my first hummer about the same time as you and hummers have been steadily passing thru. Even though I have seen hummers go from my rear feeder to my front feeder I still have no regulars. As more and more hummers pass thru this area there will be more activity. For my area its usually mid to late may before I have regular action in my yard. By that I mean seeing a hummer at a feeder every 15min.

As for your question about morning feeding , hummers go into a condition called "torpor" at night you can read about that for yourself, but first thing after first light they are looking to feed somewhere. Also you mentioned wooded area near you if you have that is a good indication that breeding could take place in your area.
Steve W.
Martinsville IN.
Zone 6
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Joined: May 21st, 2013, 12:09 am

May 11th, 2016, 6:23 pm #6

So I'm still trying to understand ruby throat migration and habits....
I sighted my first male at one of my feeders on 4/22. He was there in the morning around breakfast time, but then didn't return. Another male appeared on 4/26- same thing- drank for a minute at a feeder and then flew off not to be seen the rest of the day. This has been happening repeatedly, every day or so, and yesterday morning I saw my first female there in the morning, but she too flew off and I haven't seen her since. They aren't hanging around... I know I can't watch every second, but my feeders are easily seen from my windows and I am home during the day, so I keep a pretty good eye on them. Last year here in VA (and my previous experience out west) a couple of males and females came to the feeders in April/May and stayed in the vicinity, they would return repeatedly during the day to drink and I could follow them to where they were sitting in the trees in the backyard between feedings.

Does anyone know why I'm only seeing birds in the morning? Are they the same birds returning or are they different birds that are passing through? A couple of times I've seen one at lunch time, but that's it. This is only my 2nd hummingbird season here in VA so I'm still trying to understand their habits.

Also, Does anyone know any resources where I can find out specific hummingbird information for my specific area/town? I have been trying to find out if many even migrate through this area/my neighborhood. It's hard to find specific, in depth information...most of the info out there is for people who are beginners or who casually want to attract a hummingbird, as opposed to someone who is really trying to figure out their specific migration habits and behaviors. I found a website called eBird, but it records birdwatching of all kinds and there is hardly any hummingbird data for my county...I don't know if it's because there just aren't many hummers through here or if people just aren't watching for them.



If you had them last year there is hope. Even though they breed right in my area they become almost invisible in May unless a male has decided to stake out the garden.

Nan, I don't know about Virginia but Japanese Honeysuckle hasn't started blooming yet here in New Jersey. What you say is sure true, the plant grows everywhere and hummingbirds do like it.
Southern New Jersey
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Joined: June 21st, 2006, 1:24 pm

May 11th, 2016, 6:40 pm #7

So I'm still trying to understand ruby throat migration and habits....
I sighted my first male at one of my feeders on 4/22. He was there in the morning around breakfast time, but then didn't return. Another male appeared on 4/26- same thing- drank for a minute at a feeder and then flew off not to be seen the rest of the day. This has been happening repeatedly, every day or so, and yesterday morning I saw my first female there in the morning, but she too flew off and I haven't seen her since. They aren't hanging around... I know I can't watch every second, but my feeders are easily seen from my windows and I am home during the day, so I keep a pretty good eye on them. Last year here in VA (and my previous experience out west) a couple of males and females came to the feeders in April/May and stayed in the vicinity, they would return repeatedly during the day to drink and I could follow them to where they were sitting in the trees in the backyard between feedings.

Does anyone know why I'm only seeing birds in the morning? Are they the same birds returning or are they different birds that are passing through? A couple of times I've seen one at lunch time, but that's it. This is only my 2nd hummingbird season here in VA so I'm still trying to understand their habits.

Also, Does anyone know any resources where I can find out specific hummingbird information for my specific area/town? I have been trying to find out if many even migrate through this area/my neighborhood. It's hard to find specific, in depth information...most of the info out there is for people who are beginners or who casually want to attract a hummingbird, as opposed to someone who is really trying to figure out their specific migration habits and behaviors. I found a website called eBird, but it records birdwatching of all kinds and there is hardly any hummingbird data for my county...I don't know if it's because there just aren't many hummers through here or if people just aren't watching for them.



We live in an urban/suburban neighborhood in a mid-sized city in the Upper Midwest. We have some wooded areas and lakes around us, but also a lot of buildings, people, and traffic. Our first few years of attracting hummingbirds involved seeing only a very few hummingbirds during the spring migration and nesting period and then more birds during late August/early September. Our most difficult month to see hummingbirds is July and we feel very lucky to have one sighting a day during that time and typically it occurs at dusk.

As we built up our clientele and learned more about hummingbirds and how to observe them and expanded our garden, we began to see birds more consistently during the spring and early summer. As others have mentioned, they probably don't nest right in the vicinity of a major food source such as our yard and we also have a large number of squirrels on our property and squirrels love to eat bird eggs. However, we started to see after the first flush of spring migrants that we were seeing sporadic but daily visits to feeders and flowers (more so the flowers) by adult female hummingbirds. During different seasons, we would always see the adult female bird fly in a specific direction after feeding and we knew that there was a huge natural area in the directions that they flew, so we assume that they might have had a nest a mile or two from our home. A few other people in our area maintain feeders and plant hummingbird gardens, but not very many----we assume that the birds might find one or the other in other yards, but very rarely both feeders and top tier hummingbird flowers on the same property. We also sense that some of the adult male hummingbirds we have earlier on in the season are just passing through, but spend a few days "making the rounds" of our area for food and habitat before they move on. It is very difficult and challenging to track these little birds---to know if you are seeing the same bird or a different one, so without banding and color-marking, it would be almost impossible to make any definitive statements.

Since we don't live in your area, it is difficult to know if other people in your area are interested in hummingbirds and are involved in attracting them. Some logical next steps might be to subscribe to your state's birding list, to check E-Bird (which you have already done and so many people never record hummingbird sightings there), to connect with your local Wildbirds Unlimited, and to check in with local birding organizations such as the Audubon Society. You might even find resources at your local botanic garden and annual gardening expos and shows as well. We were in the same boat as you, which got us interested in learning what others were doing and seeing and we began presenting a program about hummingbirds and gardening and offering a community hummingbird gardening tour each fall (which now attracts several hundred people and features hummingbird banding), so those are other ways to reach out and connect. People who are passionate about hummingbirds tend to not be "typical" birding people so finding these connections is very challenging, but the interest is definitely there.

I hope this helps a little.
Madison, WI
Zone 5a
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