The Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Penny: No formatting yet, Ill wait until you get your comments back to
I'll use stock photos unless you've got some real good ones.
What do Ruby-throated hummingbirds look like?
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are one of the smallest hummingbirds. They are 7 ½ to 8 ¼
centimetres long (3 to 3 ¼ inches,) and their spread wings measure 10 to 12 centimetres
(4 to 4 3/4 inches.) They weigh between 2.4 grams to 4.5 grams, with the females being
slightly larger than the males. They are basically metallic green in colour above, with
gray below. The adult male has a slightly forked tail. He has feathers on his throat that
may appear to be black but they flash red or orange in the sunlight, thus giving the bird
its name. Females have white throats. Their tails are not forked and have white spots on
the corners. Young birds resemble the females. Hummingbirds have long narrow beaks which
are hollow in the middle so that the tongue can slide in and out without the bird having
to open their beaks. Their long tongues make it easy for them to sip nectar from flowers.
Hummingbirds have short legs and tiny feet that grip strongly.
Where do Ruby-throated hummingbirds live?
- From spring to fall, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird can be found from Southern Canada and
south to Florida. It is the only hummingbird that nests east of the Mississippi River and
the east-west range extends all the way to the Great Plains. Hummingbirds migrate to
warmer areas in the fall and spend the winter there. They may go to Southern Texas,
North-Central Mexico or south to Costa Rica.
- They prefer to live in areas where there are many flowers available. They live in
gardens, woods, orchards and the margins of forests. They prefer to live and nest in trees
at least five to twenty feet above the ground. They like down-sloping branches with leaves
overhead to shelter them. They prefer to sleep on small twigs at the ends of branches,
where no predators can reach them
- What do Ruby-throated Hummingbirds eat?
Ruby-throated hummingbirds eat insects and nectar from many flowering plants. They are
attracted to the colour red. Some of their favourite flowers to feed from are columbines,
salvia, vines (trumpet, coral and honeysuckle) and bee balm. They also enjoy tree sap.
Some of the insects they eat are small beetles, weevils, flies, gnats, mosquitoes, aphids,
flying ants, wasps and spiders. They are often seen picking insects from spider webs.
Hummingbirds readily visit feeders in back yards to drink nectar. While wintering in Costa
Rica, they survive the months of January to March (when there are no flowers to provide
nectar) by eating mostly insects.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and their young:
- Hummingbirds do not form pair bonds or raise young together. Males and females only
socialize through the courtship and mating periods, after which the female takes over the
responsibilities of nest building and parenthood.
- Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nest from March to July and may raise anywhere from one to
three broods of young throughout that time.
- The female builds a delicate cup-shaped nest using soft down from ferns, milkweed,
fireweed or thistles as well as young oak leaves. She weaves the materials together with
silk from spider webs or from tent caterpillar nests and decorates the outside with bits
of moss and lichen. The completed nest is the size of a walnut.
- The female lays two white eggs which are the size of small bean seeds.
- The eggs are incubated for sixteen days. The hatchlings are born with their eyes closed.
Their skin is a greyish colour and they are naked except for small tufts of down. They
resemble very small caterpillars. The mother feeds them by regurgitating insects and
nectar deep into their throats.
- The hatchling birds grow quickly and match their mother's weight in one and a half
- The young are ready to leave the nest when they are twenty to twenty-two days old.
- The mother teaches her young to recognize foods and they are soon independent of her.
While they may spend some time together while learning, the young soon disperse.
Hummingbirds are solitary birds.
Interesting Ruby-throated Hummingbird Facts:
- Many of these tiny birds cross the Gulf of Mexico when migrating, a distance of
approximately 1300 kilometres (800 mi.) This is flown in one stretch, without stopping,
resting or feeding.
- The males and females travel apart during migration. The males precede the females.
- In flight, their wings move so rapidly that they are a blur. When hovering, their wings
beat 55 times a second. When they are backing up, their wings beat 61 times a second. When
they are flying forward, their wings beat 75 times a second.
- Hummingbirds chase each other, uttering sharp, jerky notes. When they pass by, they make
a 'zoom' or 'hum' sound. If they were chasing each other near you, you'd hear a sound like
the Tie Fighters in Star Wars!
- Hummingbirds 'display' during confrontations, hanging the air and moving up and down
together in a kind of mid-air ballet.
- Ruby-throated hummingbirds have the least number of feathers of any bird. They have a
total of 940 feathers.
- Their heart rates are 615 beats per minute.
- They have been clocked flying at speeds up to 80-100 km per hour (50 - 60 miles per
- If the average human were to consume as much food as a hummingbird, he or she would have
to eat 103 kilograms (228 pounds) of hamburger daily!
Does this hummingbird need help?
- At night, hummingbirds enter a state known as 'torpor'. They lower their body
temperatures and heart rates to conserve energy. In the morning, it will take a
hummingbird a half-hour or so to come out of its torpor. If you see a hummingbird sitting
very still on a branch early in the morning, it may be because it has not come out of its
torpor. Watch carefully. If the bird has not begun to move or feed after a few hours, call
a wildlife rehabilitator. Some birds, when weak or cold, cab be found laying on the
ground, beneath a feeder or even sitting on a feeder unable to feed. Again, call an
experienced rehabilitator for advice.
- If a nest in unattended for more than a few hours, the mother may have met with an
accident. Because of their feeding requirements, you should call a rehabber.
- Any bird who has a wing drooping, dragging or sticking out at a funny angle is cause for
- Any visible signs of injury are a cause for concern. This includes damaged beaks, any
signs of bleeding, damaged feathers, broken legs and broken or dislocated wings.
- Sometimes hummingbirds hit windows and knock themselves out. If the bird does not regain
consciousness within a short time, there is cause for concern.
- Assume that a hummingbird needs help when all the other birds have migrated and it's not
a 'normal' time to see hummingbirds in your area. You might check with a local
birdwatchers group or naturalists' group to find out about migration times in your area,
but if they agree that the sighting is abnormal, contact a rehabber.
What will I do if the hummingbird needs help?
- Ask an adult to help you.
- If the bird is on the ground or unmoving at a feeder, carefully pick it up by placing
your hand gently around its shoulders. Have ready a small cardboard box with small air
holes so that the bird can breathe. Line the box with a clean towel. Make sure to use one
that has no holes, ravels or tatters that the bird can get caught in. Close the lid and
take it indoors. Keep it in a dark and quiet place. Do NOT attempt to hold, comfort or
feed the bird. Do not offer it food and do not attempt to put liquids in its mouth. Do not
put food, nectar or liquid in the box.
- Call a rehabber immediately. Quick response to an emergency may save a life.
- If the bird is perched in a tree or you are concerned about a nest, call a rehabber.
To be completed
To be completed
LITTLE TOT INFO:
To be completed