Hummingbirds

RUBY THROATED HUMMINGBIRD  (Archilochus colubris)

 

The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is by far the most common species that breeds in the eastern half of North America.  Ruby throats are intensely inquisitive ant thus easily attracted to feeders, where males in particular typically display aggressive territoriality toward rival hummers, other birds, and even insects such as bees, butterflies, and sphinx moths.  They quickly become accustomed to human presence, and will swoop down to investigate red articles of clothing, possibly as potential food sources.

Hummingbirds are endlessly entertaining, although the chases are obviously serious business to the hungry birds.  For a short time, immediately after fledging, a female will tolerate her own young at the feeder, but they are soon treated the same as other adult birds…as rivals in pursuit of the food necessary to prepare for the fall migration.

Courtship is very brief and once mated the female raises the young alone!  A walnut sized nest composed of bud scales attached to a tree limb with spider silk and lichens camouflage the outside.  The inside is lined with dandelion, cattail or thistle down.  The nest will stretch to accommodate the growing nestlings and may sometimes be reused the following spring.

Two white, pea-sized eggs are laid two to three days apart, which the female will incubate for 12-16 days.  When the chicks fledge, they are considerably larger than their mothers; they may weigh 4.5 grams, while poor Mom is down to only 2.5 g after the stress of raising them!  After leaving the nest, fledglings are fed by their mother for about 10 days.  Ruby-throats are thought to live as long as 12 years, but the average is about 3-5 years.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

Average length:  3.5 inches
Average weight:  1.8 oz
Wing beats:  40-60 per second
Heart rate:  250 beats/minute resting……1200 beats/ min feeding
Flight speed:  30 mph normal……50 mph escape    80 mph dive

PLUMAGE

Adult Male
Emerald green back, iridescent ruby red
gorget (throat), gray flanks, forked tail
with no white.
Adult Female
Emerald green back, white breast and
throat, rounded tail with white tips.
Larger than the male, with longer bill.
DISTRIBUTION AND MIGRATION

Ruby-throats breed throughout eastern to Midwestern North America, from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  Most winter in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean Islands.  Most researchers accept a remarkable non-stop crossing of the Gulf of Mexico, taking 18-20 hours!  They arrive at the coast in late February or early March, and follow the development of spring flowers northward, usually arriving in New England in mid April-early May.

FEEDING TIPS

One part white sugar to three parts water….heat to melt sugar, cool completely.  Be sure to clean and refill feeders often….about every 3 days….do not let unused nectar get cloudy or old….it could harm the hummingbirds!…..You do not need to use red food coloring….the birds will be attracted to anything red on your feeder and actually once they locate the feeder, it won’t matter what color it is.