This is the only hummingbird commonly found in Ontario. Here's where to spot it before it leaves for winter

·3 min read
This ruby-throated hummingbird, photographed in Quebec, is pictured perched on a tree branch. Andres Jimenez, a member of the Toronto Ornithological Club and Ontario Field Ornithologists, says the birds can cross the Gulf of Mexico in just 22 hours.  (Daniel Thomas/CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)
This ruby-throated hummingbird, photographed in Quebec, is pictured perched on a tree branch. Andres Jimenez, a member of the Toronto Ornithological Club and Ontario Field Ornithologists, says the birds can cross the Gulf of Mexico in just 22 hours. (Daniel Thomas/CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The ruby-throated hummingbird weighs less than a toonie, but can eat the equivalent weight of 30 pizzas to prepare for its annual migration to Central America.

It's the only one out of five hummingbird species in this country commonly found in eastern Canada. Right now, you can catch them fuelling for the journey in green spaces throughout Toronto — but they'll be a rare sight by the end of the month.

And by the beginning of October, they'll be gone.

"Here, we only get to see ruby-throated hummingbirds, and that in itself is a gift and a blessing," Andrés Jiménez, a member of the Toronto Ornithological Club and Ontario Field Ornithologists, told CBC's Metro Morning.

He recalls encountering his first ruby-throated hummingbird in his home country Costa Rica, where he learned they had more in common with him than he thought.

"I find out they come from Canada, where I was going to go. It was majestic. It was one of the most amazing discoveries of my life," said Jiménez.

While the tiny birds can flap their wings 52 times a second and cross the Gulf of Mexico in just 22 hours, he says they weigh three grams and need to roughly double their size to do it. This means the birds often congregate and aggressively defend their patches of food, Jiménez says.

If you're hoping to spot one, it might be your best bet to look for red and orange flowers in places like High Park, Tommy Thompson Park or the Rosetta McClain Gardens in the mid-morning, according to one local scientist.

"If you're walking down a forest trail, they will just buzz right up to you — like a foot away from your face — and just stay down. Then they're off again, doing their own little thing," said Paul Prior, a flora biologist.with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

"They behave like they're from a different planet or a different dimension. They're wonderful little birds," he said.

Daniel Thomas/CBC/Radio-Canada
Daniel Thomas/CBC/Radio-Canada

How to watch and enjoy the birds safely

According to the Canadian government, the ruby-throated hummingbird population has shown a consistent, long-term increase in population since about 1970. It estimates there are five to 50 million adults that nest anywhere from Alberta to the east coast.

Many people set up hummingbird feeders to get regular visits, Prior says. While they're under no significant threat, Prior warns attracting large numbers of them to feeding sites can lead to the potential spread of disease among the birds and other visiting wildlife, particularly if the feeders aren't cleaned regularly.

"I'm much more in favour of improving the opportunities in natural circumstances — for example, just planting the right sorts of flowers and shrubs," said Prior.

He says spotted jewelweed, also known as the spotted touch-me-not, is popular among the birds.

They'll will be gone in the coming weeks, but they'll return between late May and early June to nest once again.