Week of May 12, 2024 – May 18, 2024

Elizabeth Suzedell staff member and Environmental Educator

by Elizabeth Suzedell, Environmental Educator

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are returning! After an unbelievable 2000+ mile journey from Central America, these birds were spotted this week at Baltimore Woods. With their emerald-green back and iridescent-red throat (on males), the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only breeding hummingbird species in the eastern United States. It is an incredible bird, and for me, the first sighting of one in the spring is always special.

Hummingbirds are named because of the “humming” sound of their extremely fast wings (a ruby-throated beats its wings around 53 times per second!). They are able to fly in all directions, and speed up and stop in an instant. I often mistake them for a bumble bee because of their zippy flying pattern and tiny size. In fact, the ruby-throated hummingbird is the smallest bird in our area, only weighing about 0.1 ounces! I was really able to appreciate their size when I found a hummingbird nest last summer. It was made of spider webs and little pieces of lichen, and the inside was the only size of a nickel!

Because hummingbirds travel so fast and far, it is no surprise that they need lots of food. They use their long and pointy beak to eat nectar from tubular flowers, particularly red and orange ones. Planting native flowers, like scarlet beebalm, cardinal flower, red columbine, and trumpet honeysuckle, is a great way to attract more hummingbirds to your yard (and help other local pollinators). You can also provide them with “hummingbird food,” which is an easy to make mixture of sugar and water.

Have you seen a hummingbird yet this year? What is your favorite “first sighting” of the spring?

For more information on feeding hummingbirds, check out this article from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology!