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Greg Lavaty | profile | all galleries >> My Blog >> Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Migrating Marvel 09-15-2012 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

The Colorful Visitors of Spring Migration on the Upper Texas Coast Part 1 03-12-2013 | Starting the Year in the Texas Tropics 01-16-2013 | So you want to become a birder? 01-08-2013 | What camera is for the birds? 12-26-2012 | Winter Birding in California 12-17-2012 | Fall Colors in Texas? Lost Maples State Natural Area 11-15-2012 | Machu Picchu Birding 11-01-2012 | Prehistoric Visitor? No, itís the Magnificent Frigatebird 09-25-2012 | Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Migrating Marvel 09-15-2012 | Birding Utah and Arizona, Eared Grebes and Red-faced Warblers 09-08-2012 | Fall Migration, Like Spring but in the Opposite DirectionÖ Sort ofÖ 09-05-2012 | A Landscape Photography Adventure out West 08-30-2012 | The Rainbow Bird, Who Doesnít Love a Painted Bunting? 08-14-2012 | Our Summer Wanderer the Wood Stork 08-11-2012 | Are These Guys Bathing? A Quick Peek into the Life of the Black Skimmer 08-07-2012 | Upper Texas Coast Birding Locations

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Migrating Marvel 09-15-2012

No bird makes me think of migration like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I guess this is due partly to an experience I had a few years ago at the mouth of the Brazos River. I was out birding one fall day, checking out the shorebirds, herons and egrets along the beach when I saw hummingbirds moving along the vegetation growing on the dunes. At first the birds were only passing by in ones and twos then I started seeing larger groups of as many as 10 or 15 hummingbirds passing by at once. I started following the birds down the beach and finally ended up at the river mouth. When I got there I noticed that the birds were turning and flying out over the Gulf of Mexico and out of sight. It was quite a feeling to see those tiny birds heading out over the water on a long leg of the very long journey south. Before long, dozens and dozens of hummingbirds were streaming out across the water presumably on their way to the Yucatan. How amazing that those tiny birds can fly such a long way without stopping!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Ruby-throated Hummingbirds put on enormous amounts of weight before setting out across the gulf. These birds have been found to increase their weight by as much as 2/3 to give them enough fuel to make the trip. The frantic feeding can be witnessed at hummingbird feeders across the upper Texas coast in the fall months. Yesterday, I watched as many as 20 hummingbirds fighting for sugar water. Amazingly these tiny birds were able to consume nearly a quart of sugar water over a period of a few hours.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Ruby-throated Hummingbird



As you can see here, these little birds are quite fierce when it comes to protecting a good food source. It is not uncommon to see ruby-throats smashing into one another near a feeder. They will even go so far as to pull other hummingbirds off of a feeder. Things donít look so violent to the casual observer, but closer inspection reveals how tough these tiny creatures really are.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Hummingbirds use a unique figure eight wing movement that allows them to hover for long periods as well as fly backward, sideways and pretty much any direction they want. Watching the hummingbirds recently, I definitely got an eye-full of some unbelievable aerial acrobatics.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird




Another interesting feature of hummingbirds is their long beaks and tongues, adaptations aiding them in feeding on nectar. The tongue of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird can extend far beyond the tip of the beak, allowing them to probe deep into flowers to get at the sweet liquid within. Hummingbird tongues have grooves running along their length which carry the nectar up to the birdís mouth by capillary action, eliminating the need to suck it out of the flower (or bird feeder).

Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Ruby-throated Hummingbird




Iridescence is a feature that I strongly associate with hummingbirds. This is most obvious in Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on the adult male birdsí bright red gorget (throat) feathers. These gorget feathers the reason for the species name. The color of these iridescent feathers is the result of the structure of the feather barbules that amplify certain wavelengths of light. The thickness of microscopic discs, filled with air bubbles of a given size, on the barbules determine the color of the iridescence. The effect is strongly dependant on the angle of the light reflecting off of these feathers. In male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds the red color is only seen when viewing the bird head on. When these feathers are viewed from other angles they simply look black or gray.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Late August and September are prime times to put out hummingbird feeders on the Upper Texas coast. I was amazed how quickly birds found feeders in my back yard when I put them out, as well as how tolerant the birds were to my presence. If you decide to put hummingbird feeders you should use a sugar water solution made from one part sugar to four parts water. This keeps the solution thin enough to easily travel up the birdsí tongues and also makes the feeders less attractive to bees and wasps. It is also important to keep the sugar water fresh and feeders clean. In the summer heat the sugar water solution only lasts a few days before mold starts to show up. Once a week it is important to clean out the feeder. I find that I get the best results by cleaning with a dilute bleach solution so the birds stay healthy.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird



For more photos of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds please look here:
https://pbase.com/dadas115/rubythroated_hummingbird

www.texastargetbirds.com

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird