Hummingbirds are among the most popular back yard residents, and the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is the only bird known to reside east of the Mississippi River in the United States. These hummingbirds are solitary, and fiercely defend their food sources within a range of about a quarter of an acre, from both male and female hummingbirds, and from other species as well. In addition to feeding on nectar, these wild birds will feed on ants, mosquitoes, flies, gnats and wasps for feeding their young, so they are quite desirable to have around!
These birds are so fast and so maneuverable that they are rarely caught by predators: they can stop in midair, hover, change direction all on a few wing beats. Normally their wings beat about fifty-five to eighty times per second; during courtship, the male darts in half circles around the female, and his wings may then beat up to two hundred times per minute. (He also makes spectacular dives towards the female, and may dive from as high as fifty feet above her, straight towards her, only to stop at the last second.) The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird builds its nest in branches of deciduous or evergreen trees; however, those who are used to being around humans may build their nests in extremely inconvenient places, including loops of wire, chain, or even extension cords!
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are attracted to red or orange tubular flowers, so to attract them, be sure to plant plants such as trumpet creeper, cardinal flower, honeysuckle, jewelweed, bee balm, red buckeye, red-flowering sages such as pineapple sage, and red morning glory. If you do not have any area to plant, you can attract hummingbirds with a nectar feeder; be sure to remove it a week or two after you no longer see hummingbirds to avoid attracting undesirable insects, such as wasps and yellow jackets. In the fall, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, which normally weighs about the same as two and a half paper clips, may gain up to twice its weight in preparation for its annual five hundred mile migration across the Gulf of Mexico to its winter quarters in Central America.
The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird has been adapted for flying; as a result, its legs are so short that it can no longer walk, but only shuffle along a branch. These wild birds may live as long as ten years, if they can make it through their migration.