Florida Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Migration
Grade Level: 1-6
Topic: Ruby-Throated “Hungry bird” Hummingbird Migration
By completing this lesson, students will learn about the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds migration, and in the process demonstrate their problem solving, creative and critical thinking, math, geography, science, and observation. They will be able to connect to the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds by creating the nourishment and feeder humming birds will need for their yearly migration.
Structure: Class Discussion
Purpose: Build Understanding
Time to Migrate!
Each fall and spring, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds travel to and from their Southern Florida wintering grounds to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
We will explore questions like these:
- Why do hummingbirds risk a dangerous long-distance migration?
- Where do they go? How fast and how far can they fly?
- What do they need to survive and how can we help them?
Structure: Class Activity
Purpose: Connect to Daily Life
If you burned energy at the same rate as a hummingbird, how much of your favorite food would you need to eat per day? Calculate the number of calories per ounce a hummingbird needs in a day (Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds need 10 calories per day and weigh 1/10 of an ounce.)
Figure your own weight in ounces.
- If you burned food at the same rate (calories/ounce) as a hummingbird does, how many calories would you need per day?
- How many calories are in one serving of your favorite food?
- How much of this food would you need to eat per day?
Structure: Class Activity
Purpose: Connect to Daily Life
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds rely on nectar as a major part of their diet. You can attract Ruby-Throated hummingbirds to your yard and help them along on their journey by providing a red tipped hummingbird feeder with sugar water.
You will need a plastic water bottle (16 fl), 1 hummingbird feeder tip and string.
You will need 1 part white granulated sugar to 4 parts water.
Boil the nectar for up to two minutes. Cool the mixture before adding to the feeder. You can store unused nectar in the refrigerator for up to weeks.
Hang you feeder where you can observe it and where it is safe and accessible to the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. Clean your feeder every few days. Nectar will spoil rapidly when temperatures are over 60 degrees. To clean, rinse the feeder with hot water.
- Plastic water bottle (16 fl)
- Axner Hummingbird feeder tip, stopper, & glass tube (A132301)
The object of this activity is to create a holder for a 12 oz water bottle fitted with an Axner Hummingbird feeder tip. The holder will cover the bottle, provide a way to hang it and make it visually stimulating for hummingbirds. The lesson also contains information on how to fill and maintain a healthy humming bird feeder and how to make the surrounding environment more “hummer friendly” by including nectar rich flowers in the landscape.
Choose a water or soft drink bottle with an opening which fits the plug of the Axner humming bird Feeder Tip.
Trace around the base of the bottle, then measure the diameter of the circle. Add the shrinkage percentage of the clay to assess the size the holder must be in order to accommodate the bottles length and girth when the holder is fired.
Wrap the bottle in a garbage bag to increase the size. The bag should be loosely wrapped and secured with low tack masking tape. (Later the bag will be pulled out.)
Use a string to measure the circumference of the wrapped bottle. Knot or mark it to indicate the correct length.
Using thickness strips or the Axner Mini Roller, roll out two slabs. One that is wide and long enough to be rolled around the bag swaddled bottle and another approximately half as wide.
Cut the slab to length (just a little longer than your string) using an angled cut on both edges. This will create more surface area for the clay to adhere to, resulting in a stronger seam.
Slip and score the two sides of the slab. Roll the slab around the bag covered bottle and press the scored and slipped edges together. Work the clay to create a strong join.
Make a circle of paper towel and place on the second slab. Set the cylinder vertically on the other slab and paper towel, leaving a ½ inch margin on all sides. Step back and assess if it is leaning at all. If so, cut it at the bottom to create a vertical cylinder. Reach inside the cylinder and gently remove the bag and bottle. Then carefully work the inside seam together.
Cut around the cylinder, leaving ½ to ¾ inch extra all the way around depending on the thickness of the slab-this is the top of the lid. Cut two strips from the remaining slab, join with a diagonal seam, then slip and score the lid edge. Attach the lid lip, checking to be sure the lid is snug. You may then flip over
carefully and decorate the lid to match your feeder theme. Place a paper towel inside of the lid, tucking it carefully into the corner. Place the lid on the cylinder.
Cover the raised elements of your lid with a piece of paper towel. Add two or three scrap strips of clay to protect the raised elements of the lid design. Using a square of card board, flip the lid to expose the inside. Carefully make a hole in the center which must accommodate the two thicknesses of the rope (and the shrinkage). Place the cylinder into the lid, leaving the open end up.
Cut darts into the open end as shown. The object is to make a curved end to facilitate drainage of any condensate which accumulates on the inside of the container and to create and opening which will accommodate the bottle lip (and the shrinkage). Use slip and score and work the edges to create a smooth curve.
You may want to add some clay to the inside of the opening edge. Just be sure to work it in.
The result should be a smooth opening ready to decorate according to your theme.
Add the lugs for the hanging rope as shown. They should accommodate two thicknesses of rope (don’t forget shrinkage). The rope can be knotted at the bottom or two large beads can be used to hold the rope in place.
Shown above is one technique to make flowers. Use your thumb and finger as a pattern and your other thumb and finger to ‘cut” around them, then refine the uniform sized pieces you create. Roll balls then cut in half to create flower centers. Use slip and score method to assemble flower petals and the wet texture tool to create texture on flower center.
Be sure the decorations do not interfere with the feeder tip or the hanging rope.
Visit Axner.com December 1st for the glazing and assembly portion of this lesson….
Florida’s Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds: Tiny Travelers
The tiny, iridescent feathered hummingbird flaps it’s wings 80 times per second, making a humming noise true to it’s name. Hummingbirds live exclusively in the Americas, ranging from Alaska in the North America to Chile in South America. The Ruby-throated hummingbird is the most populated of the over 17 different species of hummingbirds in Florida and the eastern United States. The Florida Ruby-Throated Hummingbird travels from Florida to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula each fall, nearly 500 miles non-stop. In the spring they fly back from the Yucatan to spend the summer in the United States. Here in Florida we see the tiny travelers bulk up for this long journey around late July to take flight at the end of October. In the countries of the Yucatan Peninsula the hummers begin their journey back starting late February to Mid-May.
Normally, a humming bird is the size of the average adult thumb and weighs less than a penny. They travel thousands of miles a year, eating nectar, insects and finding safe spots to rest and refuel along the way. The hummingbird’s feet are used for perching only, not for walking or hopping. They hover, a unique bird behavior, by flapping their wings in figure 8 pattern. The Hummingbird is the only birds who have the ability to fly forwards, backwards and even upside down for short journeys. Hummers use an incredible amount of energy for their size. During normal flight, their wings beat up to 50 times per second for females and 70 times per second for males. During their migration journey they can beat their wings up to 200 times per second.
All this activity requires tremendous amounts of energy. Hummers will consume about half their body weight in nectar daily, visiting up to 1000 flowers and eating 2000 tiny insects. They can feed five to eight times each hour, up to a minute at each feeding. Like humans they require protein but their supply comes from insects, which make up about 25 percent of their diet. They hover mid-air to catch small flying insects, but often snap up insects on leaves or from spider webs as well.
Harsh weather conditions like hurricanes or early frosts are some of their greatest challenges every year. Part of their survival success is due to a special mechanism called Torpor. This low-energy state starts with them fluffing their feathers and adjusting their internal thermostats, decreasing their body temperature by half and reducing their heart rate from 500 beats per minute to a mere 50. They may even briefly stop breathing. Ruby-throated hummingbirds go into Torpor when they sleep or are affected by cold or dangerous weather.
Before migration hummingbirds go on a feeding frenzy. They feed often and heavily for days- a state called hyperphagia by scientists. They double their weight, gaining fat to power their journey. The extra fat, called yellow fat, deposits around the hummers body cavity and organs. The stored fat provides more than twice the energy per gram than burning carbohydrates or protein. Yellow fat metabolism produces twice as much water than burning protein or carbs insuring protection from dehydration during long flights. Ornothologists have calculated that hyperphagia generates enough fuel for a humming bird to fly nearly 600 miles at 35 mph.
Hummingbirds rely on nectar as a major part of their diet. As human population grows, natural nectar sources dwindle and pesticides kill off needed insects the hummers struggle for food sources. You can create your own bright red hummingbird feeder*. These feeders are filled with sugar-water** they do require daily maintenance since the heat will affect the water. This sugar water recipe should never include honey, artificial sweeteners, flavorings or food coloring. They will cause damage to the hummingbird’s kidneys.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds live an average of 3-5 years but they can live up to 12 years. To ensure proper continual growth of the hummingbird population, you can invite them to your backyard with a variety of brightly colored red and scarlet flowers. Pink, rose, orange, and purple are alluring to them as well. You can plant flowers such as bee balm, cardinal flower, coral bell, four o’clock, foxglove, agastache (hummingbird mint) and yucca perennials. Hummers enjoy vines such as morning glory, scarlet runner bean and trumpet creeper. This collection of flowers and vines have a very high sugar content of more than 10% for the hummingbirds diet. The hummingbirds long and tapered bill is designed to get the nectar from the center of long, tubular flower. When the hummers are drinking the nectar from a flower or a vine, their bill is usually opened slightly, allowing their tongue to dart out and into the interior of the flower where the sweet nectar collects.
Even thought the Ruby-Throated hummingbird will migrate every year, they are solo fliers. They are very unsociable birds. They do not fly in a flock like ducks or geese. Researchers have concluded that they are better off as solo fliers since they are such small birds that it is hard for predators to see them when they fly alone. They stop frequently to feed on flowers or a feeder during their journey so the availability of flowers and feeders are few for a large group. Since they have very little body fat, flying as a flock, there is not enough air current to keep them together.
A Ruby-Throated Hummingbird migration can last anywhere from on to four weeks averaging twenty to twenty-five miles per day. During this time, they might stop for food, nectar and rest but most of the time they are flying. They will stay in one place for one to fourteen days before they reach their final destination. The males arrive and leave before the females in both seasonal homes to ensure their territory is suitable for mating. Like turtles, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds will travel the same migration route their entire life span.
During their winter stay the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is noted to migrate in abundance to the coffee farms in Mexico. The shaded areas produce such lavish flowers that are super sweet which they enjoy.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Feeder
You will need:
- Empty water bottle
- Large garbage bag
- Low tack Masking tape
- Hummingbird feeder stopper and tip
- Medium weight UV resistant rope
- Slab roller or rolling pin
- Thickness strips (for use with rolling pin)
- Slabmat x2 (for use with slab roller)
- Needle tool
- Wet texture tool
- Bowl or spray bottle of water or small plastic bag of slip
1 cup Pure Cane White Granulated Sugar
4 cups hot boiling water
Boil the 4 cups of water on the stove top. Add the 1 cup of sugar. Mix the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves.
Carefully place the mixture into the refrigerator to cool, usually overnight. When mixture is cold, take the mixture out of the refrigerator and add to hummingbird feeder. wipe bottle dry after adding the water so not to attract ants.
Do not add red food coloring or dye to the hummingbird food. It has no nutritional value and can cause damage to their kidneys. If you have a good hummingbird feeder, there is no need to have red hummingbird food to attract hummingbirds.
Do not use the microwave to boil the water for hummingbird food.
Water boiled in a microwave has a tendency to start to rapidly boil over (sometimes described as an explosion) when the water surface is touched causing burns to the hands of the person making the hummingbird food.
Do not put hot hummingbird food into a hummingbird feeder.
This can cause the tank on the hummingbird feeder to break and could possible cut the hand of the person filling the tank. Putting hot hummingbird food into a hummingbird feeder can also burn the tongue of a poor unsuspecting hummingbird.
Do not use brown sugar, powered sugar, maple syrup, karo syrup, Splenda, Equal, Sweet’N'Low, or any other type of sugar or sugar substitute.
Only use Pure Cane White Granulated Sugar (the white grainy stuff) to make hummingbird food. The chemical makeup of other types of sugars is not the same as Pure Cane White Granulated Sugar and can cause illness and death to a hummingbird. It does not matter what brand of Pure Cane White Granulated Sugar you use, as long as it is the white grainy processed sugar.
Do not use Kool-Aid to make hummingbird food.
The chemicals in Kool-Aid are not good for hummingbirds and can cause illness and death to a hummingbird.