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Archive for July 24, 2011

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, New England’s only species of hummingbird, are a major pollinator of flowers.  As they hover at flowers, often red like the pictured bee-balm, hummingbirds probe their bill down into the flower’s nectaries in order to reach the nectar. As they do so, the anthers of the flower brush against the hummingbird, often on top of its head or on its face, depositing pollen.  Some of this pollen is likely to fall off on the strategically placed stigma of the next flower it visits  (often the same species). Research in Illinois and Missouri confirms that ruby-throated hummingbirds deposit ten times as much pollen (per stigma per visit) as do bumble bees and honey bees!  The diet of hummingbirds is not limited to nectar, however.  Insects, including caterpillars, mosquitoes, spiders, gnats, fruit flies and small bees, are gleaned from leaves and bark, as well as captured in air.  The sap holes drilled in trees by yellow-bellied sapsuckers attract insects which hummingbirds consume along with the sap.