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Male ruby throated hummingbird. When the males arrive in spring they claim a territory

and await the females arrival. This is the time when the male performs his most amazing flight skills for the court- ship display. He will dive and dip in front of her and show off his rich colours until the female gives a call and fans out her tail feathers showing acceptance. Ruby-throated hummingbirds do not form a traditional breeding pair as the male stays only long enough to perform the reproduc- tive act and leaves the female to complete the nesting cycle all on her own. She will begin by building a nest anywhere from 10 to

40 feet high in oak, poplar, birch and even pine trees. She collects lichen moss, dandelion and thistle down, spider's silk, and soft animal hair for construction which takes six to 10 days. The nests are about the size of a walnut and are very well camouflaged. The female then lays one to three eggs that are about the size of a half of a jelly bean. Incuba- tion time is 12 to 14 days, once hatched they are fed a diet of insects for their high protein source and leave the nest 18 to 22 days later. Hummingbirds have a much more varied diet than

people often think. Nectar from flowers and tree blossoms are the most obvious food source but they also eat many small insects and spiders and even enjoy tree sap provided from wells drilled by yellow-bellied sapsuckers. Humming- birds have a very long extendable tongue used to lap up

Female ruby throated hummingbird.

nectar from deep tubular flowers but also to snatch insects out of the air. Plants to attract hummingbirds include columbine,

bergamot, honeysuckle, fuschia, salvia, and the Lobelia and Nicotiana family of plants to name a few. When shopping for plants watch for hybridized plants that may contain little to no nectar and be aware if the plants you are buying are treated with neonicitinoids, a toxic insecticide that can taint the nectar of the plant. To attract hummingbirds to a feeder be sure to find one that is easy to clean, bug-proof, and has perches for better viewing. Please note there are many inap- propriate nectar recipes found on the internet but only one should be used. Mix four parts of water to one part sugar, I use organic cane sugar for my special friends. It is good to boil the water first especially if it is tap water and you can save unused nectar in the fridge for up to two weeks. The nectar should never be made sweeter than this ratio as it can be difficult for them to process anything richer. Never add any colouring and please avoid pre-made nectars that are filled with preservatives and other unnecessary ingredients. Feeders should be cleaned and refilled every two days in hot weather but must be maintained at least once a week. Attract some humm-zingin' entertainment

and share in the fascination of this little ruby gem. v to your yard

Sherrie Versluis owns the Preferred Perch Wild Birds and Specialty gift store in Winnipeg, Man

Ruby throated hummingbird nest.

Hummingbird at feeder. Summer 2016 • 27

Photo by Heather Moreton.

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