Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Common Name: Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Scientific Name: Archilochus Colubris.

What to look for?  Here is how All About Birds describes the Ruby-throated Hummingbird: “brilliant, tiny, precision-flying creatures that glitter like jewels in the full sun, then vanish with a zip toward the next nectar source.” The male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are visually distinct. The adult male is tiny with long wings and bill. It has a bright red throat, a black mask and green crown. The adult female is tiny with long wings and bill. She is mostly white below with buffy flanks. And she has a dusky mask and emerald green back. The young of both sexes look like the adult female until they molt. Hummingbirds molt once per year from the fall migration through early Spring. It is following this first molt, that young males acquire their signature full ruby throats.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are around our community from spring through the end of summer. If you or your neighbors have hummingbird feeders, you will notice a flash of green and red or hear the roar of a “jet” as something zoomed by your head as these birds head back and forth between food sources – feeders or flowers.

How big are they? The average length of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird is approximately 3 inches. Their wingspan is approximately 3 1/2 inches. They weigh in at 1/8 of an ounce.

What are their flight patterns? Like all hummingbirds, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are precision flyers.  They fly in an acrobatic style matched by few other birds. They can fly full out and stop in an instant. They can hover motionless in midair. They can fly upside down, sideways – and backwards! Their wings beat approximately 52 times per second (not minute)! They have a resting heart rate of 250 beats per minute which rises to 1,200 when they are feeding. They fly between 30 – 50 miles per hour.

How else do they behave? You may notice them darting between nectar sources with fast, straight flights. Or you may find them sitting on a small twig in a tree keeping a lookout. Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds aggressively defend flowers and feeders, leading to spectacular chases and dogfights - and occasional jabs with the beak. Males court females by making a looping, U-shaped dive starting from as high as 50 feet above the female. If the female perches, the male shifts to making fast side-to-side flights while facing her.

What’s for dinner? Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed on the nectar of red or orange tubular flowers such as trumpet creeper, cardinal flower, honeysuckle, jewelweed, bee-balm, red buckeye and red morning glory as well as at hummingbird feeders. Hummingbirds also catch small insects in midair or pull them out of spider webs.

Where do they take up residence? Ruby-throated hummingbirds reside across North America, Mexico and Central America. They live in woodland areas, but also frequent gardens where flowering plants are plentiful. Around Carillon Stonegate, you may find them in flower beds and the many feeders in our backyards.

Where do they migrate? Many Ruby-throated Hummingbirds spend the winter in Mexico and Central America. To get there from here, they embark on a marathon, non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico. They may double their weight in preparation for this demanding journey. This flight is over 500 miles and may take some 20 hours. Some birds may stay in North America along the Gulf Coast, parts of the southern Atlantic coast, and at the tip of Florida.

What is their conservation status? There is low concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird has seen steady increases in populations. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 36 million.

Do they make any interesting sounds? Male hummingbirds sing a constant series of monotonous chips just at daybreak.  You may hear an even chee-dit between hummingbirds, especially during chases.  And, as the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird whizzes by you, you should hear the loud, high-pitched humming sound of their wings. Here is a link to the sounds of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Interesting Facts About Ruby-throated Hummingbirds:

  • The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the most common hummingbird in the United States.

  •  The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only breeding hummingbird east of the Mississippi River.

  • Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backward and hover in one spot.

  • The Ruby-throated Hummingbird beats its wings about 52 times a second.

  • Ruby-throated Hummingbirds prefer to feed on red or orange flowers and have good color vision.

  • Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds don’t stick around long - enough for courtship and mating (just a matter of days to weeks) and then he’s off on his own.

  • The hummingbird is as efficient a pollinator as a honey bee – collecting pollen on its feathers and bill before jetting off to another flower.

  • In the wild, they may live 5 or more years.

  • The oldest hummingbird fossil is estimated to be from 30 million years ago!

For more information on Ruby-throated Hummingbird and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds and Audubon Society.  In addition, I sourced information from Hummingbirds.net, the U.S. Forest Service, National Geographic, American Bird Conservancy and the National Wildlife Fund.  And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!