Swifts and Hummingbirds (Apodiformes)
There are two species of hummingbirds in the Canadian Prairies: Ruby-throated and Rufous. Despite their small size, they migrate annually to Mexico and Central America. They can beat their wings an amazing 12-80 times per second, producing a distinctive humming sound. Their rapid flight allows them to hover and manoeuvre quickly. Hummingbirds need to eat 1.5 to 3 times their body weight daily. They feed on small insects, flower nectar, tree sap, and will aggressively defend their food supply.
Representative Genera and Species:
Archilochus colubris, Selasphorus rufus
Pollinator Life Cycle:
Males do not help raise the young. Females build small cup-like nests resembling knots of wood. These are concealed among branches, often close to food sources. They lay two or three pea-sized eggs, and nestlings hatch 11-17 days later. Young birds are cared for and fed by females, and leave the nest after 14-28 days. Adults overwinter in Mexico and Central America. Nesting pairs or their offspring often return to the same site annually.
These species are not considered rare in Canada. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is listed as “sensitive” in Newfoundland/Labrador and the Rufus Hummingbird is “undetermined” in the Yukon Territory.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is 7.5–9 cm long. Males have green backs and heads, grey-white bellies, green and black notched tails, and brilliant ruby-red throats. Females have whitish bellies, grey-white throats, and green and black rounded tails with white tips. The Rufous Hummingbird is similar in size. Males have reddish-brown backs and bellies, white chests, brown and black rounded tails, orange-red throats, and a shiny green patch on their head. Females are larger, have brown bellies, white chests, and tails coloured brown, green, black, and white.
Open woodlands, forest edges/openings, meadows, grasslands, wooded parks, old fields, orchards, stream borders, backyards, and gardens with flowers or nectar feeders. In their overwintering grounds: dry forests, citrus groves, hedgerows, scrub, shrubby openings, and oak-pine forests.
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
- Fescue Prairie
- Mixed Grass Prairie
- Tall Grass Prairie