Above: Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Indian Pink. Photo courtesy National Audubon.
For our 2021-2022 focal species, Georgia Audubon has chosen the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Georgians love these birds passionately and many people first came to notice birds through these tiny flyers. Weighing only three to four grams, hummingbirds dazzle us with their speed and agility. Their ability to double their body mass prior to making a mind-blowing nonstop journey across the Gulf of Mexico twice each year never fails to inspire awe. They are faithful to and fierce defenders of their territories, never shying away from chasing others from their favorite feeder or jewelweed patch. Depending on the moment, they can be subdued and camouflaged or literally the most striking shades of green and red. Simply put, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are amazing. They excite bird lovers from novice to pro and from home bodies to hemispheric travelers. They can be enjoyed endlessly at a feeder or in the remote wilderness areas of our state. They inspire joy, happiness, and amazement.
While it is true that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are not threatened or overly imperiled, these tiny birds inspire many people, provide great opportunities for Georgia Audubon to highlight many of our conservation goals, and offer many engagement and education opportunities. Anyone who has met our ambassador hummingbird, Sibley, cannot deny how fascinating it is to observe these small birds up close.
Threats to hummingbirds
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds face a variety of different man-made and natural threats across their range:
- Building collisions: Since 2015, Georgia Audubon has been monitoring bird-building collisions across metro Atlanta through Project Safe Flight. In that time, we have documented over 115 species colliding with buildings. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are by far our most frequently encountered victim.
- Habitat loss and degradation: Loss of suitable habitat and the proliferation of invasive plant species, such as English Ivy and Chinese privet, can have negative impacts on hummingbirds. Georgia Audubon's habitat restoration program has had tremendous success restoring bird habitat by removing invasive plant species and replacing them with native plants that provide quality food for birds. We are partnering with other Audubon chapters in Georgia to host Native Plant Sales each spring and fall to help homeowners improve their yards for birds. Our Wildlife Sanctuary Program is building a network of certified wildlife habitats across the state.
- Pesticides and insecticides: In addition to nectar, hummingbirds rely on a variety of insects, from spiders to aphids, to provide much-needed protein in their diet. Pesticides and insecticides not only kill this essential food source for hummingbirds, but they can also poison our hummingbirds. Learn more about best practices for managing for wildlife here.
- Outdoor Cats: As much as we love our pets, outdoor cats wreak havoc on bird populations, and hummingbirds are particularly susceptible since they repeatedly feed at the same food source, making it is easy for cats to lie in wait. Cats kill more than 2.4 BILLION birds each year and are one of the biggest threats birds face. Keeping cats indoors is better for cats and better for the birds. Learn more tips on the American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors website.
Plants for Hummingbirds
You can help Ruby-throated Hummingbirds by planting native, nectar producing plants in your landscape. Below you will find a few native plants that will attract hummingbirds to your yard.
Hover over or click on each picture for the plant name.
Hover over or click on each picture for the plant name.
Meet SIbley: Georgia Audubon's Ambassador Hummingbird
2021 marks three years since Sibley, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird injured in a window collision that rendered him flightless, became Georgia Audubon’s education ambassador. Because Sibley is the world’s only education hummingbird (as far as we know), no one could have anticipated that he would be with us for almost three years, the average life expectancy for a hummingbird—and still be going strong. During his time as an education ambassador, Sibley has touched the lives of thousands of people through education programs, chance encounters, social media, and even on Zoom! If you’d like to learn more about Sibley or schedule a program, visit our website.
Sibley is cared for by Melanie Furr, director of education. You can learn more about his care by watching this video.
in memory of Harriet F. Cane
In 2018 Georgia Audubon received the necessary licensing to begin caring for permanent educational Ambassador birds. The first Ambassador bird was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird named Shep, who was rendered flightless after colliding with a window. Under the expert care of our Director of Education, Shep became a charismatic ambassador for the protection of birds and captured the hearts of dozens of admirers and educational program participants. Today, Georgia Audubon cares for two non-releasable hummingbirds, with support provided by The Harriet F. Cane Ambassador Bird Endowment Fund. Established by Georgia Audubon member Les Cane in loving memory of his wife Harriet Cane, the Harriet F. Cane Ambassador Bird Endowment Fund provides funding to support the day-to-day care of current and future ambassador birds, including aviary construction, food, medical care, and enrichment activities.
help us do more for hummingbirds
Donations to Georgia Audubon support our conservation, education, and community engagement programs across the state. Please consider a making a gift today to help us build places where birds and people thrive.