Prince Edward Islanders can expect to see their first hummingbirds of 2022 any day now.
Hummingbirds overwinter in Mexico and Central America and usually arrive back on P.E.I. around May 1. Cindy Cartwright, the founder and lead researcher of Hummingbirds Canada, said she is already getting reports of hummingbirds in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The birds tend to return to the same place every year, but they are territorial and young birds will be looking to carve out a space.
Cartwright had this advice for attracting them:
"Lots of native plants, that's the number one thing. Have some colour out there, flowers that have the trumpet-shaped blossoms to attract the birds. Trees and things to shelter so they have a place to nest and a place to get out of the wind," she said.
"Don't clean up your yard too much, because their nests are made from fluff from dandelions, milkweed and other soft stuff like that, and secured to the branch with spiderweb."
The birds that come to P.E.I. are mostly ruby-throated hummingbirds, Cartwright said. They are the only ones known to nest on the Island.
Cartwright has had a permit to band hummingbirds in the Atlantic provinces since 2001, but the pandemic has kept her away for the last two years. She is looking forward to returning to work on the Island this year.
Banding has provided researchers with important information about P.E.I.'s hummingbirds.
"They come back to the same spot year after year and it gives us a really good indicator of how healthy they are when they return, when we recapture them, we reassess them, and we let them go again to continue on their way," she said.
Some of the birds have been recaptured as long as five years after they were first banded.
All Islanders can help keep track of hummingbirds, said Cartwright, by entering their sightings on Hummingbirds Canada's migration map, which is available through their website.