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Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Fact File

Appearance

The ruby-throated hummingbird is a small species which measures just 9cm (3.5in) long and weighs 2-6g (0.1-0.2oz) on average. They have a wingspan of just 8-11cm (3.1-4.3in) across.


Males are notable for a bright red patch on the throat which the females lack. Under this red patch is a white patch on the breast. Across the back and crown they are a bright emerald green or golden-green. They have grey on the rest of their underside.


Their tail is forked. Protruding from the head is the long, thin beak which is poked in to plants which they use to obtain the nectar which they eat.

Diet

Ruby throated hummingbirds are omnivores which feed almost exclusively on nectar. They may also take advantage of holes drilled in trees by woodpeckers to obtain tree sap and occasionally feed on the insects attracted to this sap.


Nectar is collected by flicking the tongue in to a flower at a rate up to 10 times a second.


These birds are a pollinator and are important for the development of some plants. Some plants species seem specially adapted to pollination by hummingbirds.


They may visit feeding trays in people’s backyard to eat the food provided there.


Each ruby-throated hummingbird may visit hundreds of plants each day to obtain enough food.

ruby throated hummingbird

Scientific Name

Archilochus colubris

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Weight

2-6g (0.1-0.2oz)

Length

9cm (3.5in)

Wingspan

8-11cm (3.1-4.3in)

Lifespan

Average 3-5 years

Record

6 years 11 months

Diet

Omnivorous

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Range

Northern and Central America is the native home of the ruby-throated hummingbird. Here they can be found in the following countries – Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Costa Ric, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States.


Each year they perform a migration travelling from Central America as far north as Canada. This may see them travel as much as 3,000km (1,900 miles) with a non-stop portion covering 850km (530miles) across the Gulf of Mexico. Before embarking on the migration they will fatten up and store energy to ensure they can cover the long distance.

Habitat

They make their home in forest, open woodlands, meadows, grasslands, and shrubland. Some can be seen in man-made areas such as gardens and parks.

ruby throated hummingbird

Reproduction

Males return to the breeding grounds first after the winter migration and establish a breeding territory. They perform a courtship display in which they will hover in a U-shaped arc in front of the female. On each dive he will make a whirring noise. Males are not involved in care for the young and leaving after mating.


The female will then work to create a nest in a tree or large shrub. This nest is a cup made out of grasses, plant fibers, spider web and plant down. To hide it in the tree they will cover the outside with lichen and dead leaves.


In to this nest two white eggs are deposited. Only the female incubates these. The short incubation lasts just 11-16 days.


Only the female will feed the young. The young are primarily feed on insects as nectar does not provide the protein needed for growth and development.


While the female is caring for this clutch she may start to work on a second nest where she will raise her next clutch. Between two and three clutches are raised each year.


By 20-22 days old the young will fledge and take their first flight.


Sexual maturity is reached at 1 year old with chicks breeding in the season after they were born.

Behavior

Hummingbirds are good flyers and can move up, down and backwards along with the ability to hover in mid-air. While in flight their wings may beat up to 200 times per second.


When moving around on land they struggle to walk or hop due to their feet being small and weak.


Adults are solitary only coming together to mate.


They are active by day. On cold nights they will enter a torpor which lowers their body temperature and slows body function to help conserve energy.


Their vocalization is a rapid, squeaky chip.

ruby throated hummingbird

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the ruby-throated hummingbird are birds of prey such as jays and loggerhead shrikes along with domestic cats.


They were previously collected by humans for the pet trade. Since this they have been given protections and their population has remained steady.

Quick facts

Their flight skills have inspired new designs for small helicopters which are able to hover in mid-air.

ruby throated hummingbird

Photo Credits

Top

By USFWS Midwest Region from United States – Ruby-throated hummingbird feeding from an obedient plant, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74814884

Others Public Domain

All Others

Public Domain

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK


Martin, R., Bryan, K., Cooper, D. and Bond, S., n.d. The Animal Book. Lonely Planet.


BirdLife International. 2016. Archilochus colubris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22688193A93186255. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22688193A93186255.en. Downloaded on 11 December 2020.


Allaboutbirds.org. 2020. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab Of Ornithology. [online] Available at: <https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/id#> [Accessed 11 December 2020].


Audubon. 2020. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. [online] Available at: <https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/ruby-throated-hummingbird> [Accessed 11 December 2020].


Harris, M. and R. Naumann 2000. "Archilochus colubris" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 11, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Archilochus_colubris/


Fs.fed.us. 2020. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. [online] Available at: <https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/ruby-throated_hummingbird.shtml> [Accessed 11 December 2020].

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