The National Wildlife Federation

Donate Donate

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris

Status: Not Listed

Classification: Bird

Description

Ruby-throated hummingbirds move exceptionally quickly. The birds are capable of rapidly beating their wings more than 50 times a second. It's possible to hear the beat of the wings, which name a humming sound, hence the bird's name. Ruby-throated hummingbirds also call with a mouselike squeak.

These hummingbirds are very small, growing only 3.5 inches (nine centimeters) tall and weighing less than a quarter of an ounce (seven grams). Male and female ruby-throated hummingbirds look very similar, except for one large difference. The males has the ruby throat that gave the species its name, while the female's throat is white. Both the males and the females have a metallic green head, back, sides, wings, and tail, and a white chest and belly. In different lighting, the male's throat can appear pink, red, or even purple.

Range

Ruby-throated hummingbirds spend their summers throughout the eastern United States. In autumn, they migrate to their wintering grounds in Central America. Some ruby-throated hummingbirds have been known to winter in southern Florida. They prefer habitats where there are a lot of flowers, such as fields, parks, backyards, and open clearings in forests.

Diet

Ruby-throated hummingbirds use their long, needlelike bill to eat nectar from flowers such as salvia, trumpet creeper, bee balm, thistle petunia, and jewelweed. They will also gladly feed from backyard hummingbird feeders, which the birds may make part of their territory. When a ruby-throated hummingbird marks its territory, it will defend it against all potential enemies, including other birds, large insects, and even small mammals.

Life History

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only breeding hummingbirds found in the eastern United States. The nest of the ruby-throated hummingbird is very delicate and takes 6 to 10 days to build. The tiny nest is often only the size of a thimble and rests atop a branch. The nest is made of grasses and plant fibers, and held together with spider silk. It's then lined with more plant material.

Eggs incubate for about two weeks. The young can fly as soon as 20 days after hatching.

Conservation

The ruby-throated hummingbird is not considered threatened. It can often be attracted to yards with hummingbird feeders, but these can create a problem if placed in areas where they make hummingbirds easy prey for cats or other animals. The feeders also pose a risk if placed around windows that the birds may fly into.

Fun Fact

Hummingbirds are the only birds that are able to fly backward and hover in one spot.

Sources

National Audubon Society

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Get Involved

   Please leave this field empty

Happening Near You

You don't have to travel far to join us for an event. Attend an upcoming event with one of our regional centers or affiliates.

Learn More