Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris)


Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) are widely distributed through North America, and are the most common hummingbirds in eastern North America. They embark on a most difficult migration of 18 to 20 hours non-stop across the Gulf. A truly beautiful bird, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are frequent garden visitors and quickly become accustomed to human presence.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird averages a length of 3.5 inches or 8.9 cm with a mass of 3.1 g. Adult males have an emerald green back with a ruby-red iridescent throat. The flanks are gray and his tail is forked. The larger female Ruby-throated Hummingbird also has an emerald green back, but has a white breast and throat. Her tail is rounded and tipped with white. Juvenile offspring resemble the female, the males developing the red gorget over time. Interestingly, as with other hummingbirds, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s wings beat extremely fast averaging 52 beats per second. Everything about these birds is fast, respiration is at 250 per minute and the heart rate reaches 1 200 beats a minute when feeding. Under normal conditions they fly at a speed of 48 km/h. In a dive they reach 101 km/h. The fast beating of the little wings of the hummingbird make a distinctive humming sound whilst they emit rapid chipping calls. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird has very short legs and has to shuffle across the item it is perching on.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed only on nectar and insects (moths, butterflies and bees), using their long bills to reach inside flowers. They are easily drawn to garden bird feeders specially designed for their feeding habits. Males will even become very territorial over their feeder and guard it aggressively. Following an almost non-existent courtship the female will lay 2 tiny eggs in the minute nest built of bud scales. The nest is intricately designed with spider silk attaching it to a tree branch and lichen on the outside as camouflage. The inside of the nest is carefully lined with thistle down, cattail or dandelion. Incubation by the female lasts for about 60 to 80 days. Normally young ones will stay in the nest for 18 to 23 days, though this can vary greatly according to circumstances. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are fascinating birds, a wonder to the eye, so why not purchase a nectar feeder and draw them to your garden.