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A photo of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), male
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Male

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris, is a diminutive jewel, measuring a mere 7 to 9 cm in length with a wingspan stretching from 8 to 11 cm. These birds are a marvel of iridescence; the males boast a fiery ruby red throat patch, or gorget, which can appear black when not caught in the right light. Females, on the other hand, are more demure with white throats and a notched tail featuring a mosaic of green, black, and white.

Identification Tips

To identify the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, look for the metallic green upperparts and the grayish white underparts. The male's unmistakable ruby-red gorget is bordered with black, while the female's throat may show faint streaks or spots. Their wings are near-black, and they possess a long, slender bill perfect for sipping nectar.

Habitat

These birds favor deciduous and pine forests, forest edges, orchards, and gardens. They are adept at making their homes in a variety of environments, as long as there is a rich supply of nectar-bearing flowers.

Distribution

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird breeds across eastern North America, from Canada down to Florida, and spends winters in Central America, Mexico, and the West Indies. They are known for their impressive migratory journey, which includes a nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico.

Behaviour

Solitary by nature, these hummingbirds are fiercely territorial. They do not socialize except during courtship, which is a brief affair, and females are solely responsible for raising the young. They are known for their aggressive defense of feeding territories against other hummingbirds.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird consists of rapid, squeaky chirps used primarily for threats and territorial defense. During courtship, males produce a distinctive tik-tik sound with their wings.

Breeding

The female Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a solitary nester, constructing a camouflaged nest out of bud scales, lichen, and spider silk. She lays one to three white eggs and is solely responsible for their care. The young fledge after about three weeks.

Similar Species

While the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the most common hummingbird in its range, it can be confused with other species. However, the male's ruby-red gorget and the female's banded tail are distinctive features that aid in identification.

Diet and Feeding

These birds primarily feed on nectar, favoring red, orange, and bright pink tubular flowers. They also consume small insects and spiders for protein and other nutrients.

Conservation status

As of 2023, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, with an estimated population of 34-36 million individuals. Despite some fluctuations, the species remains the most populous of North American hummingbirds.

Longevity and Mortality

The oldest banded Ruby-throated Hummingbird reached an age of 9 years. Predators include small raptors, domestic cats, and even large insects like praying mantises. Despite these threats, the species continues to thrive across its range.

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird Fun Facts

Did you know?
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrate 3500 miles from North to South America each year.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on Birda

Sightings

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