With blooming plants and warmer temperatures spring also brings sightings of hummingbirds. Area residents are preparing to hang their bright-red feeders, if they haven’t already, to attract a beautiful and unique bird species.

Emily Thomas, a certified wildlife biologist and wildlife technology instructor at Penn State DuBois, said the ruby-throated hummingbird is one of many bird species in the area that return in the spring after migrating south in the fall.

“Spring is certainly an exciting time, especially in the bird world,” Thomas said.

The diminutive bird returns to the region in late April and early May, she adds.

“They can be found in woodlands and backyards throughout the area,” Thomas said. “Almost anyone who puts a feeder in their yard will attract at least one or two hummingbirds.”

The males arrive first in spring, she said, to establish territories.

“Hummingbirds are unique in that the male defends a food source, rather than a territory, like other bird species,” Thomas said. “Also, they don’t form mating pairs. Once the courtship is over, the male and female do not interact with the exception of possibly fighting at a feeder or other reliable food source.”

Female hummingbirds build a “tiny nest” lined with soft plants and lichen, lay two eggs and care for the young, without the help of the male, she said. The babies leave the nest in early June or July, but can be seen with adult hummingbirds until fall migration.

“You can tell them apart, due to their pale gray markings on the throat, rather than the brilliant red of an adult male, or the white of an adult female,” Thomas said, adding they’ll stay in the area until around September.

Appropriate hummingbird feeders have a “bright red” color to attract the birds, she said.

“Anyone can maintain a feeder for them,” Thomas said. “The best food can simply be made at home by mixing four-parts water to one-part sugar, and placing it in the feeder. They should be kept clean and placed out any day now, in anticipation of the first birds arriving back.”

Hummingbirds are very attractive to the human eye. Besides coloring, they are known to fly backward, hover up and down and go from full-speed flying to an instant halt. Its wings can beat up to 80 times per second, according to www.wootandhammy.com.

The “meaning” behind a hummingbird visit can symbolize many things to different people. In Aztec culture, they were seen as messengers sent by ancestors, and in Native American culture, they were known as “healers and bringers of love, good fortune and joy.”

In Central America, hummingbirds are a sign of love. They can also be considered a “messenger from Heaven.”

“As with many others, I very much enjoy the first ruby-throated hummingbird sightings each spring,” Thomas said. “They are a much welcomed sign of warmer days, and beginning of new life for plants and animals.”

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