April, the month of the Ruby Throated Hummingbird & Red Cardinal Flower

Great duos like Batman and Robin work well together, but let’s not forget the duo of the ruby throated hummingbird and the red cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis. The pair have a mutualistic relationship to benefit their survival. The ruby throated hummingbird retrieves sweet nectar from the cardinal flower’s red tubular flower spikes and the red cardinal flower pollen is then either collected or deposited by the ruby throated hummingbird’s head onto another flower.

The red cardinal flower blossoms with the male flower part, the anther, blooming first. When the ruby throated hummingbird places its head inside the flower to drink nectar, the head of the bird brushes against the anther and collects pollen grains. When the bird flies to the next red cardinal flower blossom, it will deposit the collected pollen from its head. The female flower part of the red cardinal flower is called the stigma and opens after the male flowers have bloomed. Now when the hummingbird goes to feed, it will cross-pollinate the red cardinal flower by depositing the male pollen on the stigma. This male/female blooming process is staggered so varied flower spikes are available for the hummingbird. Mother nature at her best!

Speaking of eating, in one day, the ruby throated hummingbird eats two or three times its body weight-less than the weight of one penny! The birds measure 3 ¾ inches long with a wingspan of 4 ½ inches. They have a special metabolism to maintain their energy. The diet is mainly nectar, tree sap, and small insects. Planting native flowering plants and providing sugar water feeders can help support hummingbird populations. If you have a hummingbird feeder, remember to clean the bird feeders every two weeks to reduce risks of disease.

A hummingbird has real superpowers- it’s the only bird that can fly backwards! The ruby throated hummingbird can fly 25 miles an hour and maybe faster if flying with the wind. Some species of hummingbirds are even faster. In fact, hummingbirds are one of the top ten fastest animals in the world. Hummingbirds can also stop or maneuver quickly to dart in and out of a flower or situation. The ruby throated hummingbird’s wings beat 53 times a second to allow them flexibility in flight. They are quite territorial and can use their speed to defend their nests. Ruby throated hummingbirds migrate south in late summer/early fall from Canada to Costa Rica, flying more than 3,000 miles.

Just like superheroes, the ruby throated hummingbird has a unique appearance. If you see a hummingbird and want to identify it, female ruby-throated hummingbirds are bright emerald or golden-green on the back and crown, with gray-white underparts. Males have a brilliant iridescent red throat that glistens in the sun.

Here is a link to see video of a hummingbird fly/turn its head to see iridescence of feathers:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/id

Cardinal flowers, like the ruby throated hummingbird, also feature a vibrant color red. They are perennial plants native to North America. Red cardinal flowers typically grow in moist, boggy areas such as along streams, ponds, and marshes, but they can also be cultivated in gardens. Sometimes they are used for landscaping in wet areas. The name “cardinal flower” is derived from the bright red color of the flowers, which is reminiscent of the robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals. Cardinal flowers bloom in late summer to early fall and can reach heights of 2 to 4 feet, with green leaves arranged alternately along the stems. Native American tribes have used the flower for various ailments like cold sores or cramps, although they are toxic if ingested in large quantities. The red cardinal flower is prized for its brilliant red blooms and ability to attract pollinators.

We hope you enjoyed this month’s blog post!  To enter your name in a raffle for a surprise item – please click on this link. https://forms.gle/4b9jQkvZkj9T3t2n6

Click on these links to hear ruby throated hummingbird sounds-singing and flying:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/sounds

https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog?taxonCode=rthhum&mediaType=audio&sort=rating_rank_desc

References:

https://norfolkbotanicalgarden.org/perfectly-paired-hummingbirds-and-the-cardinal-flower/#:~:text=The%20cardinal%20flower%2C%20Lobelia%20cardinalis,most%20of%20the%20hummingbird’s%20visit.

https://hummingbirds.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/information/facts

https://www.audubon.org/news/three-easy-important-ways-keep-your-bird-feeder-disease-free

https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/lobelia_cardinalis.shtml

https://grownative.org/native_plants/cardinal-flower/

https://plants.usda.gov/DocumentLibrary/plantguide/pdf/pg_loca2.pdf

https://wildadirondacks.org/adirondack-wildflowers-cardinal-flower-lobelia-cardinalis.html