These tiny sprites leave the tropics where they spend the winter with other hummingbirds, to come north and breed in Ontario, then migrate back again, many crossing the Gulf of Mexico en route. I have watched them gathering spider webs to bind together the lichens with which they construct their miniscule nests, usually atop a horizontal branch where it looks like a cup-shaped knot on the branch. They usually lay two pea-sized white eggs. In courtship the males display in a spectacular “pendulum flight” back and forth, up and down. Their ability to hover in front of a flower to sip its nectar and fly backwards away when satisfied, is well known. They are also frequent visitors to the sap wells of sapsuckers. They may be attracted by putting out humming bird feeders filled with a sweet solution or by planting such flowers as trumpet vines. I well remember one that perched so often on the same spot on a hydro wire that it had worn the insulation smooth and I could confidently focus my telescope on the spot and show the perched bird to boys at a camp in Muskoka.
This is the only hummingbird you are likely to see in Ontario. Some hawk moths fly in a similar manner and have been confused with hummingbirds. Males are distinguished by their flash of red on the throat (which appears black at certain angles of view) from the females which have whitish throat. Both have whitish breasts, with some buffy red on the sides and iridescent green back and white terminal spots on the outer tail feathers. Young males on their way south have a few black or reddish spots on the mainly white throat.
Dr. J. Murray Speirs
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