Discover Nature
1:32 am
Wed October 17, 2012

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds Arrive in Missouri

April 19 - April

Discover nature this week by putting out feeders for the Ruby-throated hummingbirds as they arrive in Missouri as part of their annual 500-mile migration.

This hummingbird bridges the ecological gap between birds and bees by feeding on energy rich flower nectar and pollinating flowers along the way. The Ruby Throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird to nest in Missouri and is by far Missouri's smallest bird, measuring about three inches long and weighing just one eighth of an ounce, which is lighter than a number-two pencil.

The name "ruby-throated" is derived from the adult male's crimson throat feathers, which he uses to attract females and also for territorial defense. Females and immature males have white throats with gray flecks. All ruby-throated hummingbirds have emerald-green backs, wings and tails and are white below. The iridescence of the plumage causes the birds to appear different shades of color depending on the angle of light.

They can reach flight speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and their wing beat of 75 beats per second enables them to move forward, backward, upward and downward as they maneuver from flower to flower. The movement of their wings makes a low, buzzing sound, and during aggressive encounters, males will emit a higher-pitched, louder hum than females. Ruby-throated hummingbirds also produce rapid squeals and chirps, used especially as threats.

Hummingbirds must continually stop to re-fuel along the way to keep up energy needed for their journey.  You can tell when they’re in heavy migration because you’ll need to refill your feeders more often to accommodate the growing number of customers.

When filling hummingbird feeders, remember to use good ‘old sugar water and leave out the red dye this time - as it’s really not good for the birds.

To keep track of current natural events like when to welcome Ruby-throated hummingbirds to our state you can get your own Natural Events Calendar from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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