Ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on yellow bells, Texas, USA
© Rolf Nussbaumer/Danita Delimon
Tiny fliers head south
The ruby-throated hummingbird on today’s homepage is snacking on some yellow bells, preparing for its long journey south for the winter. At this time of year, hummingbirds leave the US and Canada to migrate to the warmer climes of Mexico and Central America. Many will cross the Gulf of Mexico in a single 500-mile trip - between 18 and 22 hours of non-stop flying. This tiny bird weighs less than a 2p coin but beats its wings 53 times a second, on average.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds can eat twice their weight each day in sugar from flower nectar and feeders, occasionally snacking on insects. In the weeks before the migration, they eat more than usual to put on weight. The males leave first, and a few days or weeks later, the females and young follow. The migration isn't triggered by the amount of food available, but by the length of daylight.
Sadly you won’t see a hummingbird in the wild in the UK. If you think you have, it may well have been a hummingbird hawk-moth, which do breed here and also target nectar-rich flowers.