My wife had just arrived home from work mid-day, and very soon after something tapped our front window. She went to check it out, and while she was looking at the large number of House sparrows in the tree, a young Ruby flew up right in front of her. Interesting the way other birds alert us to the arrival of hummingbirds. He sat there cleaning in the Pine tree while she alerted me to it's arrival. It was so tiny. I don't know if I'd seen a smaller bill on a fledged hummingbird before, but he was on his own and acted like an experience preener. We watched as he flew around our house, going to all the flowers that we specifically planted for hummingbirds. Other homes around had flowers, but the list of flowers that are highly attractive, that contain enough nectar to keep hummingbirds returning is much smaller. He must have done the sampling because he kept returning to our garden, but our goal is to always have them graduate to feeders before they leave. It gives them an advantage of getting a lot of food in a short time, and built up fat to assist them in their migration, and hopefully have them return the next year. We know the value of having them learn the feeders before they go, and the strong incentive feeders have in keeping hummingbirds around, but only once they sample the sweetness. After coming and going for about a hour, he rose up to a feeder we had in our front yard. It was like slow motion and felt like several minutes. Our anxiety started to increase as he neared the feeder. It actually appeared like a fish rising towards the surface of the water. He rose up so slowly, forward toward the feeder. We both said, "He's going to try it", and as he approached to within 6 inches, he suddenly lost all courage and flew off. It was so close, that make or break moment, that specific decision in his life that would change his future, and he turned away.
We've watched this play out countless times with other young hummingbirds. Some succeed and others not. We wait to see that excitement when they first dip their bill, and see that long tongue lap up the very first drop of life changing goodness. They'll feel a pool of refreshing nectar half ways up their bill instead of a tease at the tip of a flower. I believe that specific moment is an advantage that every young hummingbird needs to increase its chances of survival and migration, even if ever so slight.
Here is a young Ruby-throat that graduated to adult food with the help of a training feeder. We've matched the flowers on the feeder to the flower patch it hangs in.
Juvenile Ruby-throat hummingbird. N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Early August 2018
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