Ecology #1

The questions below come in part from visitors who leave messages on the Operation RubyThroat website. Please send your own questions to QUESTIONS, or post them on the Guestbook page.

1. What's the biggest "unnatural" danger to hummingbirds?

© Bill Hilton Jr.

Although hard to quantify, it's likely that more Ruby-throated Hummingbirds--like many wild species--are killed indirectly by habitat destruction than most other individual factors. Loss of habitat on the wintering and breeding grounds undoubtedly has an effect, as does destruction of important stopover points along the migratory path; for example, slash and burn agriculture in Mexico and Central America (above left) is bound to have a negative impact. Many hummingbirds also fly into stationary objects (picture windows, buildings, radio towers, etc.), while others are hit by cars and trucks on our busy highways.

And despite what pet owners might claim or believe, there are many instances each year of house cats (above right) hanging around hummingbird feeders or garden flowers and killing the tiny visitors as they drop in for some sugar water or nectar. (As their name implies, "house cats" should be keep indoors where they cannot molest wildlife of any kind.)

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