A research project on the Ruby-throated hummingbird is now under way in Québec.  The project is being conducted by Yanick Charette, under the supervision of Université de Sherbrooke professor and researcher Dr. Marc Bélisle.


In order to fully grasp the impact (both positive and negative) of human activities on the survival of hummingbird populations, it is essential to understand how these birds select their nesting and feeding habitats and how they use territory.  There are very few existing studies on habitat selection and use of territory by hummingbirds in Québec or elsewhere.  Dr. Marc Bélisle’s research laboratory at Université de Sherbrooke has therefore initiated a study on this fascinating bird species.  We did a preliminary study  in summer of 2005 and continued the project throughout the summer of 2006.


The study measures hummingbirds’ use of feeders containing sugar water, as a function of feeder placement (in field, brushland, mature forest, etc.).  For this purpose, we installed 20 feeders in the Estrie region of Québec in 2005, and 45 in 2006, along a habitat fragmentation gradient (from field to forest).  The feeders are placed at 100-meter intervals, in a grid covering approximately 50 hectares.  The feeders are visited and filled once a week.  We record the weight of the feeder on day 1, and again the following week.  Hummingbirds’ feeder use can thus be measured by calculating the difference in weight of the feeder from week to week.  A 10-minute focal observation is also made at each feeder twice a week.  This allows us to see how many hummingbirds of each sex visit the feeder and estimate the number of birds within our grid.  This year, we captured nearly 90 birds for marking, banding and microchip installation.  A microchip reader on each feeder can thus tell us which birds are visiting which feeder(s), when, and how many times a day.  We also characterized the vegetation and did four plant inventories within the grid area, so that we can attempt to evaluate habitat preference and assess potential use of wildflowers by our hummingbirds.

Expected outcomes

We hope this study will yield a better understanding of how hummingbirds use territory and how they select their habitat, as a function of landscape, available food resources and the age and sex of the individual bird. 

Other segments are being conducted simultaneously, including one to track the movements of our hummingbirds throughout the province.  This will allow us to identify migration corridors, understand hummingbird migration patterns and phenology, confirm arrival and departure dates in different regions of Québec, etc.

To do this, we will be capturing hummingbirds at several sites in Estrie, banding them and marking them with a patch of colour (blue, green, red, yellow, orange or violet) on the breast.  Dear hummingbird lovers, this project cannot operate without your participation.  We are hoping the maximum possible number of observers will participate by reporting sightings of marked hummingbirds, and arrival dates.

What happened with our hummingbirds in 2006?

What happened with our hummingbirds in 2007?