Ruby-throated hummingbirds have returned. The annual first sighting of a hummingbird is one of my most cherished spring moments. Invariably, the first hummingbird to show up in my yard is a male with the gorget — or throat patch — of red, iridescent feathers that gives his species its common name.
Photo by Bryan Stevens • Ruby-throated Hummingbirds swarm to a feeder filled with a sugar water mixture.
As I indicated in a recent column, the ruby-throated hummingbird is one of more than 300 species of hummingbirds. All hummingbirds are found in the New World and are absent from the Old World. Male ruby-throated hummingbirds launch their spring migration about 10 days prior to female hummingbirds.
Based on the number of people who shared hummingbird sightings with me, these tiny birds have a lot of big fans. If you would like to host your own hummingbirds, here are some crucial tips.
• Make your yard a zone that’s free of insecticides and pesticides. Residues of these chemicals can remain on blossoms, which then run the risk of sickening a hummingbird. In addition, hummingbirds subsist on more than nectar. They consume many tiny insects and spiders. Eating bugs that have been contaminated with dangerous chemicals can also sicken or kill hummingbirds.
• Provide shrubs and trees to your landscape to make your yard more inviting. Hummingbirds claim favorite posts and perches, where they will rest when they are not visiting our gardens or feeders. Shrubs and trees can also provide locations for concealing nests built by female hummingbirds.
• Cultivate plants that offer nectar-producing blooms. While hummingbirds are known to favor the color red, these nectar-sipping birds will also visit blooms of other colors. Some favorite spring blooms include the flowers of red buckeye, wild columbine, crossvine and native varieties of azaleas. As spring advances into summer, the diversity of flowers available to lure hummingbirds into your garden will increase dramatically.
Photo by Bill Buchanan/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service • Hummingbirds visit flowers for nectar, so be sure your garden offers a variety of blooms.
Thursday, April 6
Eddie and Delores Phipps of Bluff City, Tennessee, reported seeing their first hummingbird.
“We were excited to see our first hummingbird at the feeder on the morning of April 6,” the couple wrote in an email. “It was the earliest we have ever seen one. He has been back every day since!”
Eddie and Delores provided me with the report of the earliest arriving hummingbird. Soon after the couple reported their hummingbird, I began to receive more sightings from throughout northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia.
Sunday, April 9
Monica Black, a resident of Unicoi, Tennessee, saw her first hummingbird of the season about 5 p.m.
“Near the chairs in the back garden there is a spillway created from the koi pond down to the frog pond,” Monica said in the email she sent me. “The hummers like to drink and bathe in it.”
The visiting hummingbird also treated her to a viewing of the first bathing hummingbird of the season.
“The male is the only hummer spotted so far,” she added.
Facebook friend Phyllis Moore informed me that her friend, Janie Compton, saw her first hummingbird at 6:34 p.m. on Sunday, April 9, in Chesterfield, Virginia.
Nata Jackson, a resident of Greene County, Tennessee, shared details about her first sighting of spring. In her email, she said she had just put up her feeder when the bird arrived.
Photo by Bryan Stevens • Only the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird has the brilliant red throat patch, or gorget, that gives the species its common name.
Tuesday, April 11
Nancy and Walt Vernon, of Bristol, Tennessee, emailed details of their first sighting. “We saw it about 12:30 while having lunch,” Nancy wrote in her email. “We have three feeders which we keep filled all summer.”
Jeanie Campbell, who lives on Mendota Road in Abingdon, Virginia, also sent me an email. Her first spring hummer — a tiny female — wasn’t very active at first. “Then she began drinking away,” Jeanie wrote.
A few days later on April 15, a male — or “Mr. Red Throat” as Jeanie described him — appeared. “He buzzed around all day,” she said.
Glen Eller, a fellow member of the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society, posted on Bristol-Birds — a mailing list archive for area bird sightings — that his daughter, Lia, saw her first hummingbird at 6:55 a.m. Glen’s daughter lives in Fall Branch, Tennessee.
“It’s seemingly a little bit late in this warm spring,” Glen wrote in his post.
Wednesday, April 12
Philip Laws saw his first hummingbird of spring at 4:15 p.m. in the Limestone Cove community in Unicoi County. In his Facebook post to my page, Philip said the arrival served as a reminder that he had meant to put his feeders out a few days earlier, but had failed to do so. He quickly got out feeders to welcome the birds.
Amy Wallin Tipton, in Erwin, posted on her Facebook page about the return of her hummingbirds.
Kristy Dunn, who lives in Johnson City, sent me an email to share her first hummingbird sighting of spring.
Bill and Judith Beckman sent me an email to report their first hummingbird of the season. The hummer arrived around 4 p.m. at their home on Spivey Mountain in Unicoi County.
Preston Bowers emailed to let me know he saw his first hummingbird at about 5:30 p.m.
“I have lived in Blountville since 1970,” he wrote. “Oddly enough, I never noticed hummingbirds on this property until about three years ago.”
A creek in front of his house has an abundance of jewelweed, which the ruby-throat seems to like quite well.
“So I installed a hummingbird feeder at the corner of my porch where I sit in the porch swing and play ukulele,” he added. “What a joy to watch these amazing birds as they fly by at lightning speeds or hover ever so gracefully.” Preston noted that some of their antics seem like an aerial battle. “I hear sounds that are so similar to the sound of a World War II fighter plane in tactical operations,” he wrote.
Photo by Bryan Stevens • A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird perches on the tip of a garden post.
Sandra Loving sent an email notifying me that she got her first sighting of a spring hummer at her feeders at her home on South Holston Lake at 7:50 p.m.
Sharon Foster, who lives on Friendship Drive at South Holston Lake, emailed me about the date of her first hummer’s arrival. “We’ve had hummingbirds at our feeders all week,” she added.
Friday, April 14
Lynne Reinhard saw her first hummingbird at 8:15 a.m. near the upper end of South Holston Lake in Bristol. She posted the news of her sighting on my Facebook page.
Jill Henderson, who lives on Poor Valley Road in Saltville, Virginia, emailed about her first hummer sighting: “Just wanted to let you know that I saw my first hummingbird of the spring season at approximately 9:15 a.m. at my home.”
Beverly Puerckhauer in the Graystone area of Bristol, Tennessee,
Photo by Bryan Stevens • A Ruby-throated Hummingbird must share a feeder with hungry honeybees.
saw her first hummingbird and shared news of the arrival in a comment on my Facebook page.
Saturday, April 15
Linda Quinn Cauley posted on my Facebook page that she saw her first hummingbird at 9:30 a.m. Linda lives off Sciota Road near Unicoi, Tennessee.
Karen Fouts, of Marion, Virginia, saw her first hummingbird of spring — a male — and posted a comment on my Facebook page. Karen said she refers to these early arrival hummingbirds as the “advance scouts.”
Mary Beierle, a resident of the Stoney Creek community in Elizabethton, Tennessee, sent me an email telling me she saw her first hummingbird around 3 p.m. “Only one so far, but we’re excited,” she added.
Don and Shirley Cook, who reside on the upper end of South Holston Lake in Washington County, Virginia, sent me an email to notify me that they saw their first hummer at 3 p.m.
Glenna Kiser, who lives near Lebanon, Virginia, informed me in an email of her first hummingbird this spring at 1 p.m.
Several readers enjoyed their first spring sightings of hummingbirds on Easter Sunday.
Sunday, April 16
Nancy Estes emailed me just after she saw her first hummingbird of the season.
“I didn’t get a close look since I was inside my house, but I am assuming it is a ruby-throated hummingbird,” Nancy wrote. “I live in Bristol’s Middlebrook subdivision.”
Reva Russell, who lives in the Lynnwood Hills subdivision in Bristol, Virginia, notified me in an email that she saw her first hummingbird of the season at 2 p.m.
Terry Fletcher, who lives at First Colony Condominiums near the Bristol Country Club, sent an email about the first hummingbird of spring. Terry also photographed the hummingbird through a screen door and shared the photo in an email.
Debbie Oliver, who resides in Bristol, Tennessee, emailed me about her first sighting.
“It wasn’t a visit from the Easter Bunny but a delightful visit from a ruby-throated hummingbird at our deck feeders around 2:30 in the afternoon,” she wrote in her email.
Cheryl Jones in Damascus, Virginia, saw her first hummingbird of spring at 5:02 p.m. In her email, she said she was beginning to wonder what was keeping them.
Photo by Bryan Stevens • Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have officially returned to the region as of the first week of April.
The first hummingbird of spring showed up at at the home of Ken Croghan on Walden Road east of Abingdon, Virginia, while he was sitting on the front deck having dinner. He shared news of the arrival in an email.
Lynn Heller and her husband were having dinner at their home in Holston Hills in Bristol, Tennessee, when they looked out the window at their hummingbird feeder. “I was telling my husband about your article and that you asked readers to share sightings of their first hummingbird,” she wrote in her email. “About five minutes later, there he was — a ruby throated hummingbird at 6:31 p.m. on Easter Sunday. What a treat!”
Donald Elliott Rice of Elizabethton, Tennessee, filled up his feeders on Easter Sunday. “Within a half hour, they showed up,” he posted on Facebook.
Julie Carter Grason saw her first hummingbird at her home in the Clear Creek community of Bristol, Virginia. She shared the news in a comment on my Facebook page.
Shirley Jenkins of Bluff City, Tennessee, saw her first ruby-throated hummingbird this spring and shared details in an email. “My family and I were sitting on the back porch about 3:30 when out of nowhere, a ruby red throat came zooming by,” she wrote in her email.
Shirley added that the bird checked out a wind chime hanging on the porch before he went on his way.
“I was thrilled to see it, since I love those adorable little creatures,” she noted. “I will definitely be putting my feeder out pronto.”
I saw my own first ruby-throated hummingbird — a male — on Saturday, April 15. Although he acted somewhat tentative at first, he became more at ease with me as I watched him at the feeders during repeated visits throughout the day. In 2016, the first hummingbird arrived on April 12, so the arrival date was slightly later this year.