Hummingbirds are small, fast-moving birds that eat nectar and insects. In Ohio, the most common species of hummingbird is the ruby-throated hummingbird, which is found all across eastern North America. However, as hummingbirds migrate to their wintering grounds in Mexico and South America, they can find themselves moving off-course, and rufous hummingbirds and calliope hummingbirds are both more westerly species that have been seen in Ohio.
The ruby-throated hummingbird is the most common hummingbird species in eastern North America. They are bold, inquisitive birds that are easily attracted to hummingbird feeders, and are not often bothered by the presence of humans. The female ruby-throated hummingbird raises her young alone, in a walnut-sized nest held together by pieces of spider web. In the winter, ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean islands, a voyage that requires them to fly across the Gulf of Mexico, which they do in a single 20-hour flight.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds have mostly left North America by mid-October, and any birdwatcher who leaves her hummingbird feeders out should be aware that any hummingbirds she sees after this time is probably a rare species. During migration, birds can be blown off-course by bad weather, or can simply get lost, and end up in places where they are not usually seen. In Ohio, rare hummingbird species that have been seen include rufous hummingbirds and a single record of a calliope hummingbird.
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Rufous hummingbirds have a more westerly distribution than the ruby-throated hummingbird, but several have been reported in Ohio since 1985. The males are a brilliant orange color, and the female is green and orange. Although rufous hummingbirds are one of the smaller hummingbird species, they are very assertive and often drive larger hummingbirds away from feeders. Like ruby-throated hummingbirds, rufous hummingbirds overwinter in Mexico, and are more likely to be seen in Ohio in the early spring and late fall when they are migrating.
Calliope hummingbirds are the smallest hummingbird found in the United States. Only one has been reported in Ohio, where it was seen visiting a hummingbird feeder. Calliope hummingbirds also winter in Mexico, and are the smallest long-distance avian migrant in the world. The male has a throat streaked red and white, and the female has a dull whitish throat. Calliope hummingbirds are a rarity in Ohio, but might be seen visiting hummingbird feeders during their spring or fall migration.