Hummingbirds in Canada

posted in: Birds | 5
ruby throated hummingbird
Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Canada is the summer home of five hummingbird species. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the most widespread, found from Alberta east to Nova Scotia.

The Calliope Hummingbird is the tiniest of the five, and is found in central interior British Columbia and southwestern Alberta. Anna’s Hummingbird can be found in parts of southern British Columbia and Vancouver Island, and some may overwinter there. The Black-chinned Hummingbird makes its way up the interior of southern British Columbia. The Rufous Hummingbird can be found in southwestern Yukon, most of British Columbia and southwestern Alberta.

These little flashing jewels are a complete delight in your garden or yard. Planting native flower species or putting up a hummingbird feeder can supply hours of entertainment. The addition of a lawn sprinkler set to cover a small area adds to the fun as they fly back and forth through the water – their version of a quick bath.

Small insects – mosquitoes, gnats, fruit flies – and spiders are an important protein source for hummingbirds. They search for them in trees, shrubs and among flowers, pluck spiders from their webs, glean insect eggs and larvae from tree trunks and catch adults on the wing.

Flower nectar is another natural food source for hummingbirds. By planting a variety of hummingbird-friendly plants in your garden, you can provide natural food spring through fall. They prefer red bell or trumpet shaped flowers, which is why commercial hummingbird feeders are red. The Canadian Wildlife Federation has a list of native plant species to attract these tiny birds.

Ruby-throated hummer feeding at bee balm flowers.
Female Ruby-throated hummer feeding at bee balm flowers.
Male Rufous hummer at bee balm flowers.
Male Rufous hummer at bee balm flowers.

If you wish to supplement this primary food, you can add a feeder to your yard. You do not need to purchase commercially available hummingbird nectar, as most of them contain red dye. This not necessary to attract hummingbirds, and only adds chemicals to their diet.

The best food for hummingbird feeders is a home made mixture. Mix one part white sugar to four parts water. Allow the water to boil for one minute and then add sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool thoroughly. Fill your feeder and store any excess in the fridge for up to three or four weeks.

Be sure to keep the feeder clean to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria. Regular cleaning every three or four days will ensure healthy hummingbirds. No cleansers are needed, just some hot water and a brush. If you’re purchasing a feeder, you might want to consider how hard it will be to clean before making your decision!

Ruby-throated and Rufous at the same feeder.
Ruby-throated and Rufous at the same feeder.

Supplemental feeding of these tiny birds is especially important during their spring and fall migration. Flowers are blooming earlier, which may not coincide with their migration pattern. Native plant species are disappearing all across Canada, so a combination of native plants in your yard, and a hummingbird feeder will help these amazing little birds survive.

5 Responses

  1. John Creviston

    Anna’s hummingbirds are well established on much of BC’s south coast and have long been stable, year-round residents.

  2. cheryl braun

    my hummingbird is red allover and bright red on neck with a gray ring around neck. I think it is a ruby red, but myby a rufous. I cant send picture sorry. thank you Cheryl.

    • Pat Bumstead

      If you’re in BC and your hummer just arrived it is a rufous. They are early migrants and everyone is reporting rufous on the island and on the lower mainland.

  3. Mickey Drake

    I’ve had a male calliope hummingbird at my feeder for 2 summers in a row. He leaves earlier than the rufous though.

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