Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris

Last updated: July 4, 2021
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

Ruby-throated hummingbirds can beat their wings more than 50 times per second.



Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Apodiformes
Family
Trochilidae
Genus
Archilochus
Scientific Name
Archilochus colubris

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Conservation Status

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Locations

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Locations

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Facts

Prey
Dragonflies, birds, snakes
Fun Fact
Ruby-throated hummingbirds can beat their wings more than 50 times per second.
Estimated Population Size
7 million
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
Male’s ruby-red throat
Other Name(s)
Eastern hummingbird
Wingspan
4 – 4.75 inches
Incubation Period
11-16 days
Litter Size
2
Habitat
Open woodlands
Predators
Hawks, owls, crows, roadrunners
Diet
Herbivore
Favorite Food
Nectar
Type
Bird
Common Name
Hummingbird
Number Of Species
1
Location
Eastern United States and Caribbean
Nesting Location
Tree or large shrub
Age of Molting
12 months
Migratory
1

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Physical Characteristics

Colour
  • Grey
  • White
  • Green
Skin Type
Feathers
Top Speed
40 mph
Lifespan
3-5 years
Weight
0.11 ounces
Height
3.5 inches
Length
2.3 - 3.5 inches

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Images

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Unable to walk or hop, the ruby-throated hummingbird flies by moving his wings up to 50 times per second.

In many parts of the Eastern United States, the arrival of ruby-throated hummingbirds signifies that spring has finally arrived. These birds that live to be about 4.5 years old migrate about 2,100 miles twice a year. Fill your feeders and plant the right flowers as nectar is the preferred food of hummingbirds. While you may see them flocking near a food source, they have a solitary behavior.

4 Incredible Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Facts!

  • Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can see into the ultraviolet light spectrum that humans cannot see.
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds prefer nectar from orange and red flowers.
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only hummingbird to nest in the eastern United States. They usually lay between one-and-three eggs in each nest.
  • The oldest ruby-throated hummingbird to be tagged was 9 years 1 month old. The average lifespan is between 3-and-5 years.

Where to Find Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

Where you can find ruby-throated hummingbirds depends on the time of year. These birds start their year in the Caribbean. They can fly over 1,200 miles without stopping to rest. In order to prepare for the migration, they put on about an extra 30% of their body weight. They live in Canada and the United States during the summer months. You can see them in Mexico while they are moving from one location to the other.

If you listen carefully, you may hear the hum of the hummingbird’s wings before you hear their calls. Males make a lot of calls at daybreak. When they are chasing each other, they have particular calls that they make.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Nest

Ruby-throated hummingbirds build their nests in trees or large shrubs from 5-to-40-feet off the ground. They prefer a downward sloping limb on a deciduous tree. They have also been known to build their nests on roofs, poles, and other available places. Unlike some birds who try to make their nests away from humans, ruby-throated hummingbirds do not care if their nest is next to human habitations.

The nests are constructed out of spider silk and plant material. The silk allows the nest to expand naturally after the babies are born to accommodate their growing size and increased behaviors. The female spends up to 10 days building the nest alone. She puts the finishing touches on it by camouflaging it in lichen or other plant material. The bird lays between one and three eggs in the nest.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Male vs. Female

Older adult males look much darker than females and young males. Males have a ruby-red throat while females have a white throat, although a red feather may be seen in the white on a rare occasion. Males have pointed tail feathers while females have rounded tail feathers. On the female, the outer three tail feathers will have a white tip. Furthermore, the male’s tail is forked while the female’s tail is fan-shaped. The breast on a female is white while it is gray on the males.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Scientific Name

The scientific name of the ruby-throated hummingbird is Archilochus colubris. Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus named the bird.

Like all birds, they are members of the Aves class. These birds are also members of the Apodiformes order, which also includes swifts. These birds are members of the Trochilidae family, which includes over 300 hummingbird species.

The word Apodiformes, which means “no feet.” People may have once thought that hummingbirds did not need feet. Even though ruby-throated hummingbirds cannot walk or hop, they still need feet for perching. They can sometimes shuffle sideways to move on a branch.

The family name Trochilidae means small bird. It is only used to apply to hummingbirds. Finally, they are members of the Archilochus genus. This Greek word can mean ambush or first in importance.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Appearance and Behavior

Ruby-throated hummingbirds weigh 0.11 ounces, and they are about 3-inches long. They have about a 4-inch wingspan. Males are about 20% smaller than females. All ruby-throated hummingbirds are fully grown when they leave the nest. Therefore, you must use other clues to determine if you are looking at a juvenile or an adult bird. Juvenile birds often look like females even when they are males.

Approximately 20% of the bird’s length is their bill. In young birds, the bill has lines running the size of this, but these lines usually disappear when the bird is 9 months old. Looking for these lines can help you determine if the bird is a juvenile.

The eye of this hummingbird appears black. A tiny patch of tiny white feathers is right behind the eye.

Males have a bright red throat. The red may only be apparent when you are directly in front of the bird.

This bird’s 4-inch wingspan means that the wings may appear longer than the tail when the bird is resting. Males always have points at the end of their feathers, even when they are young. While the plumage on this hummingbird’s back can appear lighter or darker, it will be emerald green.

These birds have three toes on their feet in the front and one toe in the back. Especially when females are pregnant, their legs may swell, making them look bigger than those on male birds.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird sipping nectar from an orange flower.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird sipping nectar from an orange flower.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Migration Pattern and Timing

The spring migration usually starts in late February or early March. Males proceed females by 10-to-14 days. By mid-March, the ruby-throated hummingbirds have reached the Gulf States. Then, they move up through the Eastern United States until they reach Canada in early May, where they will spend the summer months.

These birds migrate back to the Caribbean in the winter. Many leave Canada by the end of July. While many believe that the ruby-throated hummingbirds cross the Yucatan Peninsula during fall migration, just like they do during the spring one, some doubt that theory. They suggest that some birds, especially weaker ones, leave Southern Florida and use Cuba as a resting spot before traveling to their final Caribbean destination.

It may be up to each hummingbird to use their instincts to determine the best migration route for themselves because each ruby-throated hummingbird makes the trip by itself.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Diet

The preferred diet of ruby-throated hummingbirds feed is nectar. They have a preference for orange and red plants but will eat nectar from almost any plant. Additionally, they will eat spiders and tiny insects. Their consumption of insects goes up in the winter months when nectar is harder to find. It may also help the birds have the nutrients they need to make their long migration.

Predators, Threats and Conservation Status

Loss of habitat is a problem for ruby-throated hummingbirds. Yet, their population remains stable. They are considered a species of least concern.

What Eats Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds?

Dragonflies, praying mantises, and orb-weaver spiders lay in wait for a ruby-throated hummingbird to come to close. Additionally, they are eaten by other birds, like the roadrunner and loggerhead shrike, which find them a tasty meal. Finally, some frogs mistake them for insects.

Reproduction, Young and Molting

The IUCN lists the ruby-throated hummingbird as least concern. They say that the population is increasing.

Population

There are approximately 7 million of these hummingbirds. Their population is stable.

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Ruby-Throated Hummingbird FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What's the Difference Between a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Male vs Female?

A female ruby-throated hummingbird is smaller than the male. It has a rounded tail. Only the male has the red throat that gives this species its common name. The female has a rounder tail than the male.

What Does a Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Look Like?

Female ruby-throated hummingbirds have a round tail, a bright green back, and a grayish-white breast. The legs on the female often appear fatter than on the male, but scientists think that may be from swelling, especially when pregnant.

Are Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds Rare?

No, ruby-throated hummingbirds are not rare. There are more than 7 million of them in the world.

Are Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds Male or Female?

Yes, there are male and female ruby-throated hummingbirds.

How Do You Tell a Male Hummingbird From a Female?

Telling a male from a female can be difficult because hummingbirds can move up to 40 miles an hour. The first thing to think about is if the bird appears a darker color or a lighter one. If the bird is darker, then see if he has a forked tail. Male hummingbirds have a forked tail while female ones have a fan-shaped one. Take a look at the breast and see if it is brownish-grey. If it is, then you are looking at a male. Likewise, males have a red throat while females have a white one usually. Finally, see if you can spot white on the tail. If there is white, then the facts are that you are looking at a female.

How much does a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Weigh?

A ruby-throated hummingbird weighs 0.11 inches. Therefore, the facts are that this weight is a little less weight than a nickel and a little more than a dime.

How Long Does a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Live?

The lifespan of most ruby-throated hummingbirds is between 3-and-5 years. The oldest banded ruby-throated hummingbird lived to be 9 years 1 month old.

Sources
  1. Audubon, Available here: https://www.audubon.org/news/which-animals-prey-hummingbirds
  2. Datazone, Available here: http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/22688193
  3. Hummingbird-guide, Available here: https://www.hummingbird-guide.com/hummingbird-migration.html
  4. Field Guide to Hummingbirds, Available here: https://fieldguidetohummingbirds.com/fall-migration-ruby-throated/
  5. All About Birds, Available here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/overview
  6. Operation Rubythroat, Available here: http://www.rubythroat.org/RTHUTaxonomyMain.html
  7. US Forest Service, Available here: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/ruby-throated_hummingbird.shtml#:~:text=Although%20Ruby%2Dthroated%20Hummingbirds%20are,crossing%20the%20Gulf%20of%20Mexico.
  8. The Spruce, Available here: https://www.thespruce.com/hummingbird-predators-386304

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